Dale Feser remains grateful to mining companies that have operated in the Estevan area, and the mine rescue team that is comprised of mine employees, for providing him with his introduction to emergency response.
If it weren’t for the mine rescue team, he doubts he would have his current job as Estevan’s fire chief.
Feser was hired to work for the mines in 2001. Shortly after he started working, he inquired about the extracurricular activities that were available at the mines. The mine rescue team was brought up.
“I wanted to make sure that I could be a benefit to my co-workers as well as to my family at home,” Feser told Lifestyles. “Initially when I got involved, obviously it was for selfish reasons.
“I lived in Macoun at the time, and there was a substantial distance to health care, so I wanted to make sure that I had some kind of a skill set to help out family members, and the people that lived in Macoun, in case somebody should fall ill.”
It didn’t take long for Feser to become passionate about the team. An avid reader who is always looking to enhance his training, Feser sought out opportunities to gain new skills, and took a particular interest in training for confined space and high-angle rescues, along with gas detection.
“It was a great bunch of guys out there,” said Feser. “People were taking me under their wing, and showing me the ways, and I spent just about 10 years on the mine rescue team as a member.”
Through the mine rescue team, he memorized the traits of about 20 different gases. He also learned how to use a fire extinguisher, extract somebody from a vehicle, and assess a hazard.
And he learned a lot about the value of teamwork in an emergency response situation, and the importance of always bringing his A-game, regardless of whether it was for a scene call or a practice. Other team members and the members of the public relied on him to always be at his best.
“They actually study a lot from the similar textbooks that we study with, here at the fire hall, including the IFSTA (International Fire Service Training Accreditation) manual, which is the bible of the firefighter,” said Feser.
Feser was part of the team that won gold at the provincial Emergency Response-Mine Rescue Skills Competition in the surface mining category in 2002. He noted the level of competition is so tight that one or two points can make the difference between first and second place.
They were also called to motor vehicle collisions near the mine sites, in which they provided medical assistance to victims while the other emergency crews were en route.
“It was a great experience for myself, and it set the stage for where I needed to go next in my career, which was full-time employment into the fire service community,” said Feser.
Feser joined the Estevan Fire and Rescue Service as a paid on-call firefighter in 2004, shortly after he moved to Estevan with his family.
“I was looking for a way to help out my community, a way to use the skills I had gained through the mine rescue team,” said Feser. “They welcomed me with open arms here, and I worked my way up the ranks and continued my training.”
In 2009, he resigned from the mines and the rescue team to become Estevan’s deputy fire chief, which is a full-time job. And his years of dedication to emergency response efforts, both with the mine rescue team and the fire department, were rewarded late last year when he was named the city’s new fire chief.
“I think the mine rescue team was definitely the catalyst for me in starting my career in emergency services,” said Feser.
Even though it’s been nearly seven years since he left the mines to become Estevan’s deputy fire chief, Feser keeps close tabs on the mine team, which is entirely comprised of employees of the Westmoreland Coal Company. He knows they train very, very hard, and the fire department considers them a partner when the department gets into situations that require specialized training the mine rescue team undergoes.
“A few of the mine rescue team members are also members of the fire department,” said Feser. “We’re constantly talking back and forth, doing a lot of consultation, and assist them in any way we feel would be beneficial to them.”
The fire department will help the mine rescue team brush up their skills, too, by offering instruction or by participating with them in drills.
Feser said they have called on the mine rescue team during mock disasters, when high-angle rescues are an issue. And he is pleased to know there is a mine rescue team is always there whenever they are needed.