BOYLE - Members of five different fire departments took part in extrication training Nov. 30 and Dec. 1 at Boyle Auto Rescue located along Township Road 652 just north of Boyle.
Firefighters from Boyle, Grassland, Rochester, Colinton and the Highway 63 (Wandering River) Fire and Rescue departments take part at least twice a year to enhance their training and get some experience working with members of other fire departments.
Steve Hamilton, the regional fire chief for Athabasca County, said the departments have only been cross-training together for the past two years.
“We did two, big multi-casualty scenarios on each day of training,” Hamilton explained. “It’s a full two-day course with all hands on the tools and the safety.”
He explained that for the first day, they had a couple of rollovers, some head-on collisions, some stacked-up vehicles and as many variations as they can get.
“You never know what you are going to run into on the Highway,” Hamilton continued. “The second day had four vehicles involved, including a school bus, with patients in all four vehicles. Some of the tools we use includes the cutters and the jaws-of-life, and we had battery-powered versions of both as well.
We also had the hydraulics that ran the pumps for them, as well as a lot of hand tools, and other battery-powered saws. We were armed to the teeth during the simulation.”
Hamilton added that the training was not just for veterans either.
“The training’s also great for our veterans as well, as they need to know how to run a scene and practice it. They also need to know how to deal with multi-agency calls,” he said. “The junior guys need the time on the tools, and they need the practice.”
He said a lot of times, the departments do not usually practice together.
“Yet when there is a call on the highway in the Perryvale area for example, chances are both Colinton’s and Rochester’s fire departments are likely going to be there,” Hamilton explained. “This exercise gives those departments a chance to get some experience working together.”
Volunteer firefighter Theodore Jenkins currently works for both the Grassland and Wandering River Fire Departments.
“I’ve been with Grassland now for just over a year and a half, and I’ve been with Wandering River for about 11 months,” Jenkins said. “Every department’s a little different, but I work with two really great crews. I joined both so I can continue to improve my response time, move up the ranks and help out the community.”
He added he first started thinking about becoming a firefighter after his dad’s farm near Grassland suffered three fires in the span of one year.
“After having the fire department come out all three times, I figured it was finally time to give back,” Jenkins said. “I don’t regret joining, and I love doing it. Anyone who has the urge to join, do it. If they don’t feel they have the time, they can come in anyway and the department will work around their schedule.”
Hamilton added that all fire departments in Athabasca County, as well as in the Town of Athabasca and the Village of Boyle, are always looking for new firefighters.
“Anyone interested in volunteering can always contact me at the County office,” he said. “Once you join, you work at odd hours, no pay and you get a cool helmet.”
He added he also wanted to thank Ralph Kamprath of Boyle Auto Rescue for supplying the vehicles, location and some equipment needed to make the training a success.
“Without his contribution, we would not have been able to run this program.” Hamilton stated.