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New firefighter training program hopes to improve safety in Kananaskis

A new K-country emergency training program is set to give firefighters the skills they need to improve safety in the region, according to the province. Global News

A new K-country emergency training program is set to give firefighters the skills they need to improve safety in the region, according to the province.

The Alberta government has budgeted $18.5 million for the new Kananaskis Emergency Services Centre (KESC) that will properly store equipment under one roof and offer a training program in the backcountry.

Upgrading the “dated” infrastructure is necessary for public safety and identified as a “high priority” by Parks Canada, said Shannon Phillips, minister of environment and parks.

“Everyone deserves those high quality outdoor experiences but what we need to make sure is we’ve got the infrastructure to keep people safe, to keep people coming back, to grow our tourism economy, but also to protect the environment,” Phillips said, adding that the centre will have solar panels.

The facility is under construction and set to open in fall 2019. Phillips said it offers an opportunity for recruits to get hands-on experience with “world class infrastructure.”

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A new K-country emergency training program is set to give firefighters the skills they need to improve safety in the region, according to the province. Global News

The 18-month Firefighter Residency Apprenticeship Program recruits and employs people interested in the emergency services field.

The program started in 2017 with six recruits who have remained with KESC. There are eight this year.

A new K-country emergency training program is set to give firefighters the skills they need to improve safety in the region, according to the province.
A new K-country emergency training program is set to give firefighters the skills they need to improve safety in the region, according to the province. Global News

Since Kananaskis is a resort area, it’s often tricky to recruit people — so that’s where the apprenticeship comes in.

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“This program has allowed us to bring people in, give them that training and then retain them with the organization which is obviously a good part of our investment,” said Gary Robertson, fire chief of Kananaskis Emergency Services.

“We’re giving them high-calibre training in conjunction with the experience. So they’re getting both of those things simultaneously.”

Had recruits gone through a traditional fire school, they would have received an education, but they would not have gained experience that would have helped them in the search for a job.

Recruits receive 100 hours of training before they’re able to go on calls. Next is the shadowing phase before they’re able able to respond as full team members.

“The program here provides them with the certified and accredited levels of training that fire departments across North America are looking for in applicants.”

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