Leaders heading this year’s crop of NWT firefighters convened in Fort Smith last week to complete training for what looks to be a busy season ahead.
Hailing from the South Slave to the Beaufort Delta, 23 Environment and Natural Resources (ENR) fire crew leaders spent May 25 to 28 going over safety regulations, organizational tactics and wildfire knowledge.
The students, decked out in yellow crew shirts, were given refreshers on the basic elements of controlled fire practices and policies, weather and forest fire behaviour, and fire line equipment operations.
In addition, they picked up new leadership skills, learning methods to motivate and guide their assigned crews. They also discussed how to plan preventative strategies in their home regions by using the resources around them, taking into account the land and water of the region’s natural formations.
The group also spent one afternoon training outdoors, where they participated in a structure protection and triage course.
“This is something we do a lot of: values-at-risk protection,” said ENR fire prevention coordinator Wes Steed. “A lot of times we get sent out to fires rolling across the landscape. We don’t want to burn anybody; we’re trying to reduce a threat and protect any values-at-risk. These guys need to be able to triage so that when they get out there they can set up and protect that infrastructure.”
Setting up sprinkler systems using a variety of pumps, Y-connectors and hose sizes at Fort Smith’s ENR compound gave the crews a nice break from the classroom as they gained hands-on experience.
It also gave the firefighters a more realistic idea of the fast-paced nature of the job, where snap judgements can make all the difference.
“Sometimes you get out there and you go, oh crap, we don’t have enough time to set up the sprinklers. It’s our safety first, firefighters’ safety,” Steed said. “The leaders are responsible for a crew of four guys, so that’s why we want to put crew leaders through that training.”
The ongoing training will continue later into this month as crews test their skills at emergency firefighting boot camps.