April 27, 2019 7:13 pm
Updated: April 29, 2019 7:34 am

Saskatchewan firefighters get emergency training at annual fire school

WATCH: Hundreds of volunteer firefighters tackle hands-on training without the stress of an emergency situation.

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Hundreds of Saskatchewan volunteer firefighters are getting hands-on training at the Saskatchewan Volunteer Firefighters Association (SVFFA) annual spring fire school hosted in Pilot Butte this year.

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From La Ronge to East End, 322 firefighters representing more than 35 fire departments enrolled in the training. Courses include beginner basics, water rescue, HazMat, traffic management, car fires and vehicle extraction — the same training career firefighters would receive.

“We need our people to come home in more or less the same shape as when we got them. The only way you become good at something is through practice and education,” said SVFFA president Doug Lapchuk.

READ MORE: ‘It’s nice to get a thank you’: Sask. introduces volunteer firefighter tax credit

Firefighters of all levels are taking part in the three-day training, including Wadena fire chief Harold Narfason, who’s been with the department for 43 years.

A major role in Narfason’s job is helping land STARS helicopters.

“Wadena is one of the few communities that actually has a fuel cache,” Narfason said. “I came to tweak my skills and see if there was some more I could learn.”

Narfason says crews land upwards of 15 helicopters in Wadena each year. While he’s helped with more than 50 in his career, Narfason says he always picks up something new.

READ MORE: Volunteer firefighters receive training, but ask for respect

“People don’t realize that if we don’t sweep the landing zone, a simple thing as a plastic chip bag could crash that helicopter,” Narfason said.

Even though the fire school offers several specialized courses, Lapchuk says many rural firefighters would rarely encounter some of the situations.

Lapchuk says grass fires are what crews are dealing with the most, especially this time of year.

“We’ve seen earlier this week, in fact, the example of how fast and how far and how furious a grass fire can be and what kind of resources it takes,” Lapchuk said.

“We don’t have readily-accessible roads everywhere; we don’t have a 20-tonne firetruck with 1,000 gallons of water. We have to learn how to mitigate that with what we have on hand.”

READ MORE: ‘Everybody is thinking of them’ Sunday morning fire destroys home in Pilot Butte

Lapchuk says the goal of the training is for students to take what they’ve learned in the courses back to their fire halls, to ensure all firefighters have the right tools to carry out the job.

“We have a huge potential of knowledge loss by the veteran firefighters who may be retiring soon and we need to make sure we pass that on to our new people,” said Lapchuk, adding there’s always a need for more recruits.

Spring training runs until Sunday.

The SVFFA’s annual fall fire school is being held in Swift Current.

WATCH: ‘It’s nice to get a thank you’: Sask. introduces volunteer firefighter tax credit (March 22)

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