Sooke Fire Rescue plays host to a unique training opportunity this weekend, and the skills that will be taught during the program may save their lives one day.
The Fire Ground Safety Program is an initiative of the B.C. Professional Fire Fighters Association and uses props that simulate life-threatening scenarios where a firefighter has become disoriented, injured, trapped or low on air.
It started in 2017, when the International Association of Fire Fighters helped the B.C. association develop the course and created a mobile training unit that could tour across the province to provide the life-saving instruction.
The intensive training also trains participants to become instructors so that they can pass on the critical survival skills to other firefighters in their department.
“This is the first time that this training will be hosted in Sooke, and we’re very excited to be able to offer it to our firefighters,” Sooke Fire Chief Kenn Mount said.
“I’ll be taking the course this weekend along with 15 other firefighters. We already train for a variety of situations but this program helps to simulate the real stress situations and it’s important to me to take the same training as my recruits.”
The mobile training unit simulates situations like being tangled in debris and electrical wiring after the collapse of a structure. Firefighters practice extricating themselves from those conditions as well as skills like climbing head first down a ladder.
“The key to a lot of these situations is to stay calm, control your breathing and use the techniques we’ve been taught to self-rescue in the case of a bad situation,” Mount said.
Mount said structure fires are far more hazardous than in the past.
Lightweight building materials have led to a higher risk of collapse in the case of a serious fire and the chemicals released from burning synthetic materials used in furniture such as couches and chairs can be deadly.
“This is a detail-oriented training program based on recent, real life situations where firefighters have had to self-evacuate. It’s really a chance to get down and dirty and practice these skills in a safe environment before we have to face those situations during a real fire. It’s designed to help us prepare for those unforeseen challenges so that when they occur we’re ready,” Mount said.
Another Sooke firefighter, Ben Patterson, is also taking the training and is glad that the opportunity has been brought to Sooke.
“In order to prepare to take the course, we had to take an online course in preparation for the hands-on training,” Patterson said.
“This is a dangerous profession, and these days fires are burning hotter and faster. We need a different skill set than we did in the past.”
In the end though, Patterson said, one part of firefighting hasn’t changed.
“We’re still the ones running into a burning building when everyone else is running out.”