Inaugural firefighting school prepares remote communities for emergencies

Participants of the Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management (SFNEM) fire school learn how to safely get into a crashed car on June 14, 2018. (Jayda Noyes/Daily Herald)

“You never know what could actually happen during an emergency.”

– Pierce Pellerin, Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management

First Nations communities from across Saskatchewan are gathering in Prince Albert for training in firefighting.

Saskatchewan First Nations Emergency Management (SFNEM)—which is based in the city—hosted two days of training and a competition, all from Thursday to Saturday.

On Thursday and Friday, participants learned about how to get someone out of a crashed vehicle in the Northern Lights Casino parking lot. There was also training at the fire tower near the Prince Albert Airport, where they did exercises for search and rescue, hoses and hydrants, hose streams and pump operations.

The inaugural fire competition takes place on Saturday, June 15, in the Casino parking lot. The winning team will travel to Nova Scotia to compete nationally.

Emergency service and protection officer with SFNEM, Pierce Pellerin, said many Saskatchewan communities are isolated and not near fire support.

“We really want to build up their fire department and help them be independent and be able to, I guess, respond to any emergency that may occur on their First Nations community whether that be (a) house fire, grass fire, forest fire, medical emergencies,” he said.

“As a firefighter, I want to be as best possibly trained as I can to deal with any situation that might arise and to be (at) a confident level with my training,” added Pellerin. “You never know what could actually happen during an emergency.”

Firefighters Without Borders Canada donated equipment to the communities including tools, gear, trucks and self-contained breathing apparatuses.

Ontario Representative Carl Eggiman said one firefighter’s equipment usually costs about $10,000. They provided enough for 750 firefighters.

Their efforts were important to Pellerin: “If they didn’t have any gear, then there’s nothing they can really do.”

Eggiman observed the training in vehicle extrication, saying the techniques are applicable to a number of situations.

“These lessons could be used in houses that collapse, bridges that collapse, to rescue people. It’s not just vehicles, it’s all types of rescues.”

“The enthusiasm of this team here is just incredible, so they’re going to go back to their communities just pumped up and ready to work hard and save their community,” he said. “It’s building up their confidence.”

Firefighters from the Prince Albert department taught participants how to safely bust into car windows and remove doors in order to swiftly save someone trapped inside.

At the fire tower, participants had to enter a smoking house and “rescue” dummies that were strategically placed.

Opening ceremonies for the Saturday competition are at 9 a.m. Over 100 volunteer firefighters are competing.