ROSS HOWEY, For the Independent
Wellesley and area firefighters took advantage of some extra training this past weekend, courtesy of Draeger, a manufacturer of training and firefighting equipment.
It can normally cost a municipality up to $6,000 to outfit a single firefighter in their protective clothing, also known as “bunker gear.” It costs that much more to train volunteer firefighters, especially considering some of the advanced training tools that are required for proper firefighter training.
To help provide this vital training to those who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity, the Wellesley Township Fire Department along with Draeger, put on a low-cost training opportunity for local departments this past weekend. Over the past week, 12 instructors from the Wellesley Township Fire Department worked to learn the equipment and techniques so that they could help teach the more than 64 firefighters training on the systems on Saturday and Sunday.
Chief Andrew Lillico of the Wellesley Township Fire Department said he was very thankful for the large time commitment local firefighters made, both in learning the systems themselves and training others. Lillico also pointed out how lucky Wellesley was to host the training, as only four fire departments across Canada are chosen each year to host this training by Draeger. Draeger brought in its own experts to help train the instructors for the event including a flashover expert, Rich Graeber. Flashovers are a deadly scenario for firefighters in which the entire contents of a room reach their ignition point and flames engulf the room, potentially killing the firefighter. There are small telltale signs that can help to alert a firefighter to a flashover and Graeber, along with a flashover simulator, gave firefighters the tools they need so that they can escape with their lives. The flashover simulator, a specialized trailer the size of a shipping container, was just one of the pieces of equipment that Draeger brought to help train these volunteer firefighters.
System 64 is an electronically controlled propane tank fire simulator that demonstrates what it is like if a propane tank catches fire and allows firefighters to train on how to put out such a fire. There was a similar setup for a barbecue fire that featured different fire extinguishers so that the firefighters could see the different techniques available for dealing with such a situation.
One of the more complex simulators was the D-Pod, a trailer with steel tubes large enough for a firefighter to crawl through that are filled with a thick, but nontoxic smoke. This piece of equipment is used to simulate what it is like to rescue an injured or incapacitated fellow firefighter in a confined space. Firefighters must reposition their colleague’s harness and drag the firefighter, along with all of the equipment, through the maze of tunnels to safety.
This is not an easy task under any circumstances and this training simulator aims to make it as difficult as possible. After burning through more than 1,000 gallons of propane and 70 sheets of plywood, Lillico said he hoped that these 64 firefighters from as far away as East Perth and the 12 instructors will be better prepared when it comes to facing dangerous situations in the line of duty.