Regional fire chief Jamie Coutts made more or less the same annual report to M.D. council last week as he’d presented to town council in Slave Lake the week prior. One thing that was different was how many questions he was asked about training, mainly by councillor Brad Pearson. Training costs money, and Pearson is always keen to spend less.
“How much above the bar (minimum requirements) are you going?” he asked.
Coutts explained that the 1001 training course was not required of volunteer firefighters. Those who take it do so usually because they want to train themselves up to qualify for professional jobs elsewhere, or “some just because they want the knowledge.”
As for the minimum requirements, some volunteers have a hard enough time making those, due to the time commitment. Former firefighter Murray Kerik said he understands the need for training.
“I don’t want that guy next to me who doesn’t know what he’s doing,” he said.
When it comes to the need for training versus the expense of doing it, “I think we’ve found a compromise that works,” Coutts said.
Part of the equation is the money the fire service makes by training members of fire departments from other jurisdictions. An example of that is firefighters from Bigstone that were down for some training.
Pearson asked if there have been any calls for help from out on the lake this winter. No, said Coutts, but this is about the time last year when they started getting them. People should know “we’re in the rescue business, not the towing business,” he said.
Coutts’s written report included a page titled ‘Memorable Moments’ from 2017. One of the prominent ones was a big two-day, provincial training exercise last spring, called EMX 17. It brought a few hundred people to town.
“Somehow we pulled it off,” he said.
There were six water rescue events in 2017, which was “a big year for us,” he said.
Also memorable was sending 18 firefighters to help with structure protection in British Columbia.
“It was a great success and the crew learned many things,” he said.
The driver of this pickup truck walked away unharmed, according to information from the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service. The truck collided with a transport truck hauling fertilizer, at about 3:00 p.m. on Feb. 27, on Hwy. 88 near Marten Beach.
Photo courtesy Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service