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Tabletop training

Dorothy Westerman
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Dec 21/05) - At first glance, one might think a group of Yellowknife firefighters were engrossed in play with a miniature toy village.

But upon closer examination, these firefighters were learning invaluable and innovative skills to fight fires and perform rescues during a recent week-long course, said deputy fire chief Chucker Dewar.

"They had to figure out a strategy to attacking a fire and whether they need more resources," Dewar explained.

Keith Boswell, an adjunct instructor with the Justice Institute of B.C., was conducting the workshop for the firefighters.

"We're working on one of the modules of the Fire Officer-I program," Boswell said of the international standard of training that meets the National Fire Protection Association standards.

With the use of a model town, various scenarios are set up where the firefighters "go in," assess the scene, put out their hose lines with miniature apparatus and fight the fires.

"As an instructor, it is interesting to see the behaviourial change in the students," Boswell said of the week.

"I find they are willing to listen and investigate how these new ideas will help them," said Boswell, who is also captain with the City of Surrey fire department.

"I think firefighting has evolved into where the arrival on the scene is more organized than before," he said.

"The fire service is like any other industry. It is changing rapidly with new technology."

As an example, Boswell noted how the Yellowknife Fire Department is equipped with what is known as the CAFS system - Compressed Air Foam System.

"They use it for fighting their fires and not all fire departments have that, so I think it is a positive thing."

The Justice Institute of B.C., located in New Westminster, trains people who work in all facets of emergency services in B.C. and across the world.

"Fire service training has become more universally available than what it was before."

Yellowknife fire chief Mick Beauchamp said this is the first time the fire department has brought in a recognized training institution.

"This is the first part of the three-part program," Beauchamp said.

The second training module, in 2006, will explore scenarios with multiple agencies.

The last scenario will examine wide-spread disaster situations.