Expanded fire training centre serves Mountain View region
The addition of two more storeys on the fire training centre in Olds plus additional apparatus will benefit not only area fire departments but other organizations as well.
A grand reopening of the newly-expanded facility in Olds took place last week, giving not only area firefighters a chance to practise their skills, but for the public to come out and see firefighting demonstrations at the facility.
“This is a great night for the (Olds) Fire Department,” said Lorne Thompson, fire chief in Olds.
Thompson said the facility will give area firefighters a safe place to train in a realistic environment that, with the continued growth of area communities, will give firefighters the skills they need to battle any situations they may encounter.
“What this is doing is it’s providing the fire departments, not only Olds, but the other ones in the region that care to use it, safe, realistic training. We’ve got a multi-storey facility so they can use ladders … we’ve got windows, as opposed to just working on the ground all the time, so you can simulate a two-storey house, a two-storey commercial structure,” he said.
Inside the commercial shipping containers, hallways and rooms have been fabricated, old furniture is in place and a three-storey stairwell is also included in the structure.
With the continued growth in the area, the centre provides a place for firefighters to train for fires they may be called to in the future.
“We can simulate just about anything that these firefighters are going to experience … and even though it’s safe training, it’s still realistic enough that it gets them to the point where they’re using their skills like they should,” he said.
Thompson said another important aspect of the centre is the regional part of it. At the grand reopening, crews from the Sundre Fire Department and Didsbury Fire Department were also on hand. The Carstairs Fire Department has also used the facility in the past.
“When they want to do a course, they can come up here and use all the skills that they do in their course (and) they can do it right here in one spot, as opposed to trying to find a building to do it in. We’re really working that regional aspect of it, because the big thing with us is we do a lot of mutual aid calls,” he said.
In addition to fire departments using the facility, Thompson said he has also offered the grounds to the Olds RCMP detachment to conduct training exercises, as well as Olds College to train arborist students, giving them the opportunity to practise tree-climbing skills on towers that have been erected.
The Olds Rotary Club was a major sponsor of the initial opening of the centre, contributing $50,000 to the initial one-storey structure. The club added another $25,000 to the project to complete the existing three-storey structure.
“We felt it was a worthwhile project, because we wanted to invest our money where we could get the maximum benefit, and we felt that if we had really good, trained firefighters here, and it cost less to train them because the facility was here, it would be a worthwhile project,” said Greg McIntyre, president of the club.
Pat Dodman, chief of the Didsbury department, said the main advantage to the centre is that members can get training locally, rather than going to Vermilion.
“And with our firefighters being volunteers, they usually have to take holidays to go up to Vermilion. Now we can do it on weekends … on a training night,” he said, adding that the centre will save members a lot of money in the process.
Robert McBride, training officer with the Sundre Fire Department, said the upgraded facility will help the Sundre firefighters a lot by giving them a place close by where they can train – especially if they’re new to the department.
“With new members coming on, giving them good, consistent fire training becomes more and more difficult. This way, here, it’s a safe place for them to come, the situation is very controlled (and) it’s just going to be a good, safe training environment for new members and even older members to brush up on skills,” he said.
McBride, who participated in the demonstration part of the evening in which members educated the public about various aspects of a live fire, said the SFD had not practised fire training at the facility before last week. Prior to last week, the SFD had only practised simulated vehicle rescues.
The sea-going storage containers were procured from West Coast Containers in Vancouver. Thompson said the company fabricated the old containers to the fire department’s specifications, taking out parts of the containers to simulate windows and other features of buildings.