Seven new firefighters are close to manning stations and trucks in Welland, says Deputy Chief Burt Lamoureux.
“The last day of the recruit program is June 24 and two weeks after that they’ll be on shift, responding and fully trained,” said Lamoureux.
Three of the seven recruited were to replace Welland Fire and Emergency Services firefighters who retired, while the other four were part of a hiring program approved last year by city council to boost the ranks.
Lamoureux said their training doesn’t end in June.
“They’ll be capable to respond and well-trained, but we’ll continue to hone their skills as they advance every year for the next four years. They’ll add new skills and be tested on them,” said Lamoureux, adding firefighters never stop learning.
One of the skills learned by the recruits — in a 10-week in-classroom and practical training program — is how to operate the fire services’ rescue boat.
“They are working on all aspects of water rescue,” said Lamoureux.
Those aspects include shore-based rescue with throw bags and life rings; water entry in dry suits and lifejackets with rapid deployment craft — often called a banana boat because of its yellow colour and shape; and the rescue boat, a landing craft style jet boat.
“All of our firefighters are trained how to operate the boat,” said Lamoureux, adding having a pleasure craft operating card is the first step.
Understanding the rules of waterways, safety aspects and how to perform actual rescue operations are part of the training.
The fire service also takes aspects of other vessel training programs and implements them into its program.
“In the water rescue world here’s a five-step concept — talk, reach, throw, row and go,” said Lamoureux.
Each step in the concept is an escalation from the talking stage, seeing if someone can make it in on their own, to the others with throw bags being used, firefighters suiting up and going in while tethered to shore, and using the banana boat to the rescue boat being deployed.
“Everyone does an annual refresher on open water, ice rescue and boat operations.”
With the new firefighters come two new fire trucks to be delivered later this year.
Welland city council recently approved the purchase of a 110’ Ascendant platform aerial truck and a Sabre pumper truck from Appleton, Wisc.,-based Pierce Manufacturing Inc., the largest fire truck manufacturer in North America.
The vehicles come in at just more than $2.5 million for the two — the pumper at $913,723, and the aerial at $1.59 million. Funds from the aerial purchase will be used to offset a shortfall in the pumper budget.