Estevan Fire Chief Dale Feser and Deputy Chief Rick Davies joined the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs (SAFS) virtual conference and trade show last Friday and Saturday.
The theme this year was Redefining the Fire Service. Feser said the virtual presentations had a lot of useful information, which will serve the fire service professionals and volunteers, as well as the community further down the line.
After a few special meetings and a presentation by guest speaker Frank Schroder of the Calgary Fire Department, the conference opened on Friday evening. The conference goes hand in hand with a trade show, where fire chiefs can find anything that might be needed in their jobs.
"Typically what we have in the real environment and that we brought in a virtual setting for this year is what's called the trade show. So in a normal setting, we're going out to a very large area, and looking at fire trucks, internal gear, and other safety equipment, everything that pertains to the fire service. With this year's venue we had tiles from these vendors so that people could just click on it if they had questions and there was a little question and answer session for specific vendors," Feser explained.
The conference reconvened Saturday morning with a presentation by the president of the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency Marlo Pritchard.
"There're a lot of things that were discussed provincially on what we're hoping to achieve in the next calendar year, and what kind of frameworks are in place. There's going to be also a lot of training opportunities that the government is going to try to provide for firefighters, whether it's career, paid on call or volunteer," said Feser.
Jodi Burnett, who is a doctor and a registered psychologist, spoke about a PSP NET model that helps firefighters cope with trauma, posttraumatic stress and other work-related psychological issues.
"Critical incident stress management component is another tool in the toolbox that's provided free for any firefighter, whether they're retired or active duty. Currently, the (PSP NET) model only stands in Saskatchewan and Quebec. So we're very fortunate to have it here in Saskatchewan, where 24 hours a day, if one of our individuals thinks that they need help, or they need somebody to talk to, they can phone this line and they'll get the means that they are requesting," Feser said.
Saskatoon Fire Service instructor Doug Wergen made a presentation on hazardous materials awareness, which was followed by a session on fire code and carbon monoxide by Yvonne Raymer and Trevor Davies.
"That presentation was in regards to mandatory installation of carbon monoxide alarms, especially in lieu of what just recently happened in Saskatoon where we got large apartment buildings not once but twice in the last little while, suffering mechanical failures of a boiler system and exposing a lot of individuals living within those apartments to carbon monoxide.
"Currently in the fire code, only newer buildings are required to have CO alarms but older buildings that predated the current code were allowed to continue to operate without. We're seeing a pitfall here. This is definitely going to be something that we want to see (changing) province-wide to increase the safety margin," Feser said.
Saskatoon was the host this year, and Feser praised the work their fire department has put into organizing this province-wide event in a new format.
Saskatoon Fire Chief Morgan Hackl, along with SAFC president Mike Kwasnica and Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs president John McKearney, delivered the keynote presentation on redefining fire service.
"We talked about what we're looking at, how we're redefining the fire service, how we're responding to more than what we initially responded to in years past where it was just fires. Now it's an all-hazards approach, and … whenever everybody else doesn't know what to do, they just call the fire department and we come in and figure out a solution to the problem.
“So we were trying to make sure that we're able to support that financially and with training, and to make sure that we are doing a good job at what we're doing, providing a safe package for end customers or end users," Feser said.
Deputy Chief Mike Ralston and Bat Chief Rob Hogan made a presentation on cancer prevention and presumptive legislation. Feser said that the presenters spoke about how health and safety officials and the Workers Compensation Board have been working with fire departments across the province trying to make their work environment safer.
"From decontaminating firefighters on scene or back at the fire station and providing washing machines so we can wash our turnout gear. We're fortunate enough that we already have that in place. Down to exhaust management of the fire apparatus at the fire station as well. So it was an all-hazards all-encompassing approach to try and minimize our exposures to cancer-causing agents."
Saskatoon Assistant Chief Anthony Tataryn and Saskatoon Fire Service instructor Trevor Warren made a presentation on rehab and incident safety officers. The conference wrapped up with a presentation by the regional director of the National Fire Protection Association Shayne Mintz.
"He talked about stored energy systems, solar and electric-powered vehicles and how it relates to the fire departments and how there are additional hazards and measures that we have to take to successfully mitigate these situations," Feser said.
Meanwhile, during the lunch break on Saturday, Estevan firefighters were called out to a residential fire alarm, which went off in the north central area. Crews responded, but just as they arrived on scene, dispatchers updated the call. It turned out it was a cooking-related incident, so crews were stood down.
The Estevan fire chief contacted the homeowner to confirm that indeed there was no emergency occurring and no help from the fire department was needed at the location.