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Blazes around NWT prompt training
Additional firefighters get ready for busy season of battling blazes

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Monday, August 18, 2014

Firefighters in the NWT battling the worst blazes in decades have gotten some more help.

NNSL photo/graphic

Ricky Kelly from Fort Good Hope took part in a training course for forest firefighters in Fort Smith. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently held four training sessions to prepare more Type 3 wildfire crews, who are also known as extra firefighters, or EFFs.

"Sometimes people call it emergency firefighters," said Judy McLinton, manager of public affairs and communications with the department.

"What that means is these people are not the initial attack," said McLinton, who noted frontline firefighting requires much more training.

Instead, the newly-trained firefighters will be immediately deployed to fire scenes to help with such things as fire mop-up, driving, and some general duties, such as equipment maintenance and camp operation.

That allows the more highly-trained and experienced firefighters to engage in the initial attack on fires.

Normally, training of Type 3 wildfire crews happens at the beginning of the season, and it did again this year.

"But given the length of this fire season and, as well, because of the drought conditions, a lot of these fires are burning pretty deep," said McLinton. "So to put them out or do the mop-up is taking longer than normal because they're burning deep. So we need additional resources to help just make sure we're getting them out."

Three of the four-day training courses were held in Fort Smith and the other in Yellowknife, all between Aug. 5 and Aug. 16.

"That's all. We're not going to do any more other than that," said McLinton.

Among those at one of the training courses in Fort Smith was Ricky Kelly from Fort Good Hope.

This is Kelly's first experience as a forest firefighter.

"Most of my family has been fire fighting, so I actually decided to try it. It seems pretty fun, so far, " he said, while taking a break from the training.

"It's a good experience for me, and hopefully I'll be doing it again next year."

Another trainee, Yellowknife's Joey Powder, said he was looking forward to helping the firefighters on the frontlines.

"Everybody is tired and we've got to relieve them. They're doing a good job," said Powder, who has some previous experience as a forest firefighter.

Wrigley's Roland Yendo, who had some experience as a forest firefighter about four years ago, said he is interested in learning more about fires and how to protect the North.

The high number of fires in the NWT this year made him get involved, said Yendo. "I thought it was time to help out again."

Freddie Lennie of Wrigley said his decision to join the training was also influenced by the high number of fires.

"I just thought I'd gain some more experience while trying to see a new field of work and try to do my part for the NWT," he said.

The training course covered many topics, including safety, fire behaviour, fire suppression, applying water to a fire, equipment operation, communications, survival skills and more.

McLinton said the department had a very good response to its call for trainees, noting they came from all over the NWT, but primarily from the South Slave, North Slave and Deh Cho regions.

"We got quite a few," she said. "In fact, people were still applying when we had up to the limit that we were going to take. So anymore who are asking we're just advising them that we'll be doing training again next year."

The trainees all had to pass a physical fitness test before they could

take the course.

McLinton said if the weather stays warm and dry, the new trainees could be working into September.

As of Aug. 11, there have been a total of 364 fires reported in the NWT this year, she added.

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