Northeast Town firefighters practice skills in Little Current

Northeast Town Fire Department members take some time out to pose for a photo during some weekend training at a Little Current house slated for demolition. The property owners offered the house to the crew for important rescue practice.

LITTLE CURRENT—Trucks from the Northeastern Manitoulin and the Islands Fire Department attracted a bit of attention as they headed up Meredith Street in Little Current on Sunday, but their destination was a training session at a building set to be demolished at 59 Meredith Street West.

The property was purchased by Mark and Linda Schraeder with an eye to demolition of the existing structure and building more badly needed housing stock in the community.

“As soon as I saw the building the lightbulb went off in my head,” said Mr. Schraeder, who is a member of the fire department. He went on to approach town CAO Dave Williamson and fire chief Duane Deschamps, who both immediately saw the benefit of the Schraeder’s offer to donate the building for training purposes.

“It is great to be able to conduct fire practice safety in a real-world environment,” said Mr. Deschamps, who, along with his officers, spent the day taking the Northeast Town fire crews through a full day series of training sessions.

“We covered search and rescue, firefighter egress, ladder rescue, roof ventilation, advancing hose lines and catching hydrants,” said Mr. Deschamps. Various cutting tools, hooks and ladders were used in the training, which covered what materials they could best cut through, along with tips on what tools could be used in low-oxygen environments and which could cease functioning.

While setting fire to the building was clearly out of the question, the opportunity to go through the training on a real building situation was extremely valuable, noted the fire chief. With an eye to budget considerations, the fire department found innovative ways to simulate conditions found in a real fire. “Smoke is expensive,” said Mr. Deschamps. “So, we just turned the guy’s balaclavas around so they couldn’t see anything.”

Fire team members then crawled their way through the building on hands and knees just as they would in a fire, feeling their way along looking for victims, identifying doorways, rooms, halls, windows and other structures while sounding the floors ahead of them with their firehose and firefighters’ hooks. An instructor followed the teams as they made their way through the house and ensured they followed proper procedure. A member of the fire department sat huddled in the back of a long closet as the “victim” in need of rescue.

Man-down rescue techniques were also performed, with firefighters making their way through the very walls and windows of the building. Then the teams headed outside to learn the proper techniques of cutting through walls and roofs. Important considerations need to be made given that behind every cut could be super-heated air and columns of smoke.

“All but two members of the department were able to make it out to the training,” said Mr. Deschamps, who had high praise for the dedication of his firefighters, including Ben Marshall, the newest member of the team. “It is really great that we are getting some younger members joining,” said Mr. Deschamps.

Asked what he thought about the experience so far, Mr. Marshall replied with a wide grin.

“It’s great,” he said.

For their part, the Schraeders said they were very pleased to be able to donate the building to the fire department. “The more training we can get like this the better it is for everyone,” said Mr. Schraeder, “so we are happy to help.”