New firefighters in Fort Smith recently got a taste of indoor flames for the first time during a training course at a facility in Hay River.
Four firefighters from the Fort Smith volunteer fire department hit the road to train at the Emergency Response Training Centre (ERTC), owned and operated by the Hay River fire department, in late September.
The training not only gives firefighters a chance to combat a fire indoors in a controlled environment, but the opportunity to learn and share with other fire departments, Chief Wes Steed of the Fort Smith volunteer fire department told The Journal.
“I think it’s really important to work with other volunteer fire departments and see what they do and get to know other firefighters,” Steed said. “There’s not a lot of opportunity for our volunteers to work with other volunteers, not like down south where towns are closer together and mutually made agreements come into effect much more often.”
In Fort Smith, training facilities available for volunteer firefighters are limited to external fires, Steed said. Entering a building that is on fire is a whole new experience for most of the volunteers.
“They can actually light up the building and you can go into the building to extinguish the fire,” he said.
The facility is built so that firefighters must first climb a staircase to the reach the door and then, upon entering, locate the source of the fire.
The ERTC facility, located in Hay River’s Old Town, is used seasonally and will soon be closed for the winter. Steed explained that they were lucky to have the opportunity to use the facility one more time before it shut down.
While volunteer firefighters are not required to undergo training at the ERTC facility, Steed said it’s important for them to get hands-on experience in preparation for what they might face in a future emergency.
Fire Prevention Week, marked nationwide last week, is pivotal to a fire department’s role in every community, Steed said.
“Accidents do happen, but we’re trying to remind people to take steps to eliminate the possibility of accidents happening.”
This year, national Fire Prevention Week’s main campaign was themed “Prevent Kitchen Fires.”
As people move indoors for the winter, Steed said it’s important they remember to be careful and take the proper steps to reduce the danger of fires, whether that be ensuring they have a working smoke alarm or getting their chimney cleaned.
“It’s an opportunity for us to remind people of prevention and to reduce the chance of fires taking place in the home. Any opportunity we can do that is great – especially with the kids,” he said.
In Fort Smith, Steed commended his volunteer firefighters for committing time and effort to events held throughout the week, which included the annual “burnt offerings” barbecue and open house, along with school presentations.