At last month’s UBCM convention

At last month’s UBCM convention

Walking in firefighters’ boots

Nelson city council meetings often get heated, but now there’s a councillor who has the skills to put out some of the fires.

Nelson city council meetings often get heated, but now there’s a councillor who has the skills to put out some of the fires.

The Vancouver Fire Department hosted Fire Ops 2011 during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities meetings that took place at the end of September, and councillor Robin Cherbo was able to get in on the action.

“It does give an inkling of what our firefighters go through,” said Cherbo.

“For one thing, going into the burning building you couldn’t see anything. I thought well, why they don’t they have lights, and someone explained that would be like shining your headlights into a blinding snow storm. It’s interesting to learn and feel your way through.”

The MLAs, mayors and councillors participated in confined space exercises, exposure protection, putting out a car fire with an air pack, learned to use the jaws of life to remove a person from a vehicle, CPR exercises, and entry into a burning building which included moving a body 10 feet into the corridor and putting out the fire.

Gord Rae with the Nelson Fire Department went to Vancouver to assist in the exercise and said all the participants were told the exercises were in a controlled environment.

“They had somebody there if something went wrong,” he said. “The car fires were propane fired with a little bit of wood in them for the smoke. We tried to make it as realistic as possible to a point. We figure they did 20 per cent of what we would do on a call because everything was controlled.”

Rae said the Fire Ops were also valuable to teach the differences between the way firefighters work in Vancouver compared to smaller cities like Nelson.

“In Vancouver when they’re going into a fire, they’re going in with four guys. In Nelson when we go into a building, we’re going in with two guys. There’s a big difference,” said Rae.

“When Vancouver has a house fire they know they’ll get 15 to 20 guys within the first five minutes of that call. We respond with two guys and we can be waiting 10 to 15 minutes for our second truck to get there.”