WESTLOCK - Town of Westlock firefighters are looking to upgrade their training facility to incorporate more scenarios and Level II certifications.
Fire chief Stuart Koflick updated council on the current state of the training grounds at a committee of the whole meeting Jan. 20, after council sought to hear from him during budget discussions.
The current facility north of town has existed since 2005, when council allotted a plot of land for training purposes. A 50-by-50 foot concrete pad was built as a clean training area, and old vehicles were used for extrication training.
Since Koflick’s arrival in 2009, he started a process of formalizing the training grounds and added a simulated structure built out of four sea-cans, and an additional burn chamber where firefighters can also observe fire development.
The area also includes a confined space simulator, a roof ventilation prop and a fire extinguisher training area with props.
In 2020, Koflick is looking to upgrade the second floor and turn it into a simulated apartment suite with a building hallway – stairs already exist on the outside of the sea-can structure. With the addition, the training grounds would provide training for most scenarios that might occur in the town.
In the development of training facilities, associations also have to respect Occupational Health and Safety regulations, including guard rails and lights.
Currently, firefighters can train for Level I certifications, the minimum standard required as per the National Fire Protection Association, but scenarios are limited without the second-floor addition.
For the next phase of development, Koflick is looking to install flammable fuel firefighting props, possibly in 2021, which would require fuel supply and piping, and completing the pad for the three different props.
With the flammable fuel props, town firefighters can train to Level II.
“The challenge that we do have is the water supply. As it sits right now, using current trucks and tenders and water supply for structural firefighting, that’s not an issue … For the live propane props, we need quite a bit of water,” said Koflick.
Running a hydrant at the site that would run water from the public works shop would cost an estimated $60,000-$80,000.
“At this point in time, it’s not feasible,” said Koflick who added that the alternative is using the 3,000-gallon drop tanks they already have.
Break-ins at the grounds are also an issue. Fixing the existing fence has cost the department around $5,000 over time.
Koflick is exploring multiple sources of funding, some from town council, others from fire associations and local businesses.
Providing training to firefighters is a requirement for municipalities.
In the past, they have trained in Vermilion, Edmonton, Leduc, Whitecourt and Slave Lake, but the commitment is a challenge for the volunteers who have to take time off from work and families for the week-long exercises.
The fire department currently has 20 firefighters on staff, with 16 trained at Level I only. Ten count Levels I and II training and four are new recruits.
“To send at least a crew of five to attend training in another municipality is very difficult … We want something that will accommodate our local firefighters, specifically the town, but we do train with our regional partners as well,” said Koflick.
The closest training facility is in Barrhead and has a completed second floor unit, but no propane tanks.
Recertifications for the different levels completed by firefighters are not necessary so long as they can provide proof of training or active duty.