Ready for their ‘worst possible day’: Winnipeg firefighter training an intense process

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Winnipeg firefighters demonstrate some of the training they go through, from smoke simulations to first aid to cutting people out of cars in an accident – Aug 1, 2018

For firefighters in training, cutting up cars, responding to medical emergencies and rushing burning buildings is all in a day’s work.

The City of Winnipeg’s 15 newest crew of firefighters are now patrolling the streets, but they have to go through intense training before they’re ready for the job.

“I’m training them for their worst possible day,” senior firefighter paramedic Kyle Schmidt said.

“We do stress inoculation on purpose to try to wrap them up a bit to get the feeling of how it’s going to be in a real situation. When the siren is blaring and the house fire is rolling you need to be able to perform under those conditions.”

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The firefighters in training were put through simulations that feel real. The smoke they use is fake but the situations are designed to be as realistic as possible.

“They are really life-like in a lot of cases. Nowadays there is video simulations but you can’t simulate the fear so unfortunately the training is sometimes dangerous and really realistic for the most part,” training officer Dwayne Huot said.

For trainees like Jordan Duff, those realistic scenarios build confidence.

“It’s fun using all the tools on the cars for sure, but the chaos of a real scene is something you can’t simulate and that’s when it gets really real and people’s lives are at stake at that point,” Duff said.

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The point is to get them ready for the challenging days on the job, and more and more those calls may be for medical emergencies. The students are taught to try to embody compassion.

“Our teachers always tell us try and treat them like it’s your family,” trainee Gaetan Simard said.

“If it’s a little old lady, it’s my grandma, if it’s a little child, it’s my niece and working with people is what I’ve always liked doing.”

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When the trainees had to scale down a 75-foot tower, most of them were feeling the sweaty palms and fear of the height.

“That was definitely one of the more nerve-wracking things,” trainee Brett Reid said. “I don’t really have issues with heights, but when you do something for the first time it gets the adrenaline pumping. It was definitely getting the heart rate going up.”

Ed Wiebe, a 30-year firefighting veteran, also takes time with the trainees. On Feb. 4, 2007 he lost nine of his fingers and had burns all over his body in the fire that claimed the lives of two of his colleagues.

“I try to tell them I’m a voice of reality. It’s a dangerous job, it’s a very rewarding job, but sometimes some bad things can happen and I’m here to tell them to be safe on the fire ground,” Wiebe said.

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The fire left him with burns on 70 per cent of his body and left him off the job for four years, but he was determined to return in some capacity.

“I had to get on the job. It was four years of a a lot of hard work and a lot of support, and I’m able to return to work in some fashion.”

“I may not be back in the fire hall, I’m working in the crews and sharing some knowledge,” he said.

It’s all the training and knowledge that instructors hope the next generation of firefighters carry with them in their career.

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