But this time, it’s just a training exercise
Here’s the scenario: Two carpenters have fallen through the roof of a shed they were working on and are injured. The fire department arrives and determines the only way in is to break through one of the walls. They smash a hole pretty quickly, and one firefighter gets in and does an assessment on the two injured parties. One has a broken leg; the other has a sore neck and can’t move his legs. He’ll have to be stabilized and removed on a backboard, but not so fast. In breaking through the wall, its load-bearing capacity has been compromised. The incident commander won’t let anybody else through or the patients moved out when there’s a danger of collapse. So the firefighters go to work, improvising a header and supports around the hole. It’s done pretty quickly, using a chainsaw, hammer and nails with lumber found on the site. Then the more seriously injured victim is rolled over, a collar is fixed around his neck, he’s secured on the board and carried out. The guy with the broken leg gets a makeshift splint, is also cinched to a board and is removed.
That was a training exercise put together by Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service Hall 2 (Widewater) Captain Bruce Turnbull, for the Feb. 10 practice. He was the only one who knew where the victims were, what had happened and what shape they were in. The other crews, arriving by fire truck from Halls 2 and 1 (Slave Lake) had to figure it out and act accordingly.
“This type of thing is really helpful,” says Turnbull. “Especially for the younger guys.”
One thing different about this training exercise was the ‘victims’ were not firefighters; they were volunteers from the community – one a certain newspaper editor and the other a noted ticket-selling fundraiser.
The location was an old shed at the Widewater Complex, until recently used to store a tractor. It’s getting worn out and the Widewater Athletic Association has turned it over to the fire service for the purpose of a live-fire training exercise. That was scheduled to happen on the evening of Feb. 17, conditions permitting. But before that, Turnbull decided to use it for the rescue exercise described above.
The practice was good fun for all involved, but of course the purpose behind it is quite serious. Firefighters get called out to all sorts of situations where people really are hurt and badly in need of comfort and rescue. The more training they’ve had in lifelike scenarios, the more likely they’ll be able to do the right thing when it really matters.
On a related note, volunteer numbers at Hall 2 are a bit low. Turnbull says it’s tough to respond adequately if they have fewer than 10 people available. Volunteer recruitment is an issue across the region – and probably everywhere that volunteers are relied upon to fill out fire hall rosters.