A look inside: the Kootenay damage control training facility

HALIFAX — A helicopter crashes on the deck of a navy vessel as it was attempting to land, and in a matter of seconds is engulfed in flames. It’s now up to officers on board the ship to extinguish the fire and rescue the pilot and any passengers.

This is one of the scenarios about 4,500 sailors, airmen, and army personnel are faced with every year as they learn how to safely fight fires on board a ship. Skills that are taught, through practice, at two damage control training facilities in Canada, one located just west of Victoria, the other in Purcell’s Cove, about 15 minutes outside of Halifax.

Inside the Purcell’s Cove facility, another simulation is underway.

“Hey, go that way! Go that way!”

Instructors yelling, water gushing, and alarms ringing, that’s the environment members of the Canadian Forces are dealing with as they try to repair a leak and stop the flooding inside the navy “ship.”

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While the Purcell’s Cove facility looks like any other brick building, its inside is unique, designed just like the inside of a ship.

“If it were to happen to them unfortunately on board a ship, they would be accustomed to the sounds and noises, the sights and the feel of the equipment, in an environment that they’re actually going to be fighting a fire or flood in,” said Lieutenant Navy Jarett Hunt.

Hunt is a training officer at the Kootenay Damage Control Training Facility (DCTF).

This state-of-the-art facility is named after HMCS Kootenay, the Canadian warship that experienced the worst peace time disaster in the Canadian navy. In 1969 a deadly fire swept through the ship killing nine crew members and injuring at least 53, including most of the crew trained as firefighters.

“You never know when the damage is going to occur, you never know who’s going to be in the vicinity of the damage,” explains Hunt. “Kootenay was our lesson learned about the importance of having everyone on a ship trained in the basic elements of fire fighting and damage control.”

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