New firefighters learning the ropes

The six new probationary firefighters, or probies, as they are called, with the Estevan Fire Rescue Service have been doing well with their training.

Justin Herod, Stephen McLaren, Amanda Minchin, Tyler Stead, Geoff Thiessen and Michael Wock signed up in the spring recruiting intake and started their program in June.

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Fire Chief Dale Feser said they have done great and have not only attended the probie training sessions and regular training nights, but they have also been there for public education events and promotional activities, which he believes leads to well-rounded firefighters.

“I couldn’t be happier with the new people,” he said. “They’re really, really dedicated, and it’s … hard to come by now, looking for that kind of dedication in individuals.”

They are also a well-rounded group from diverse backgrounds that range from oilfield workers to welders, and from the head pro of the TS&M Woodlawn Golf Course in Minchin to a church pastor in Thiessen.

“I really, really enjoy working with people in this capacity because we can draw in their skill sets in their other walks of life or their daily jobs,” said Feser.

Thiessen’s background allows him to also serve as a chaplain for the fire department in addition to other emergency services. It’s a service that Feser appreciates.

“I personally feel that it’s needed within all organizations, especially dealing with emergency services, just due to the fact that the nature of the calls that we tend to receive, it does get very taxing on the mind and the emotions at times,” he said.
The diverse backgrounds allow the rookie firefighters to bring different strengths to the table and develop certain skill sets and exercises that will enhance their proficiency.

“The beauty of it all is I don’t have to know everything, because we have it with these people that are journeymen within their trades,” said Feser.

The fire department follows an International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) training module, or a Pro Board model, which is another certifying committee for the professional designation of minimum training standards among firefighters.

“We go through some fairly extensive training, as typically it takes approximately about a year from start to finish before they are eligible to go through all of the job performance requirements successfully to write a written evaluation as well as a practical skills exam to get their professional designation as a firefighter,” said Feser.

The probies will likely take the written test in the fall of 2020. They are about halfway through the certification program.

Feser believes the fire department is fortunate to have its members be dedicated enough to commit time to the program.

“There’s a lot of training and dedication and time that goes into this. There’s a lot of self-study as well.”

Training usually amounts to two three-hour sessions each month, in addition to the self-study time.

Throughout the year, they also attend the provincial fire school. Last year it was in Estevan; this year it will be Oct. 18-20 in Swift Current.

Once the rookies are finished with their training, it will bring the fire department up to 25 active members. Feser said they had a discussion during a recent officers meeting, as to whether to have a fall intake, and they decided not to, because they want to focus on the training and the skill set of the new firefighters.

“We’re probably going to look at the spring of 2020, just for the simple fact that it’s going to be a little onerous on the individuals who are delivering the training as well,” Feser said.

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