Training wrapping up for Lethbridge’s newest firefighter recruits

Nine of the twelve Lethbridge firefighter recruits demonstrating a fire exercise at the training facility on 5 Ave. N on Monday morning. Eloise Therien / Global News

Twelve new recruits are in their final week of training to become the newest firefighters in Lethbridge.

Over the last eight weeks, the trainees went through a series of intense simulations, many of which takes place at the facility behind Fire Station No. 4 on 5 Avenue N.

In order to increase safety, the facility has had several updates throughout the years in the hopes of protecting the environment, trainees and staff.

“We retrofitted our training facility here some years ago, using a propane, nitrogen gas and a mineral type oil to provide the smoke, the fire and the flames,” said Lethbridge Fire and EMS member Les Hilliard.

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On Monday, the training centre was put to use as trainees demonstrated how to properly extinguish a tanker fire.

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Having been involved in emergency medical services since 2012, James Akerley said the current training is quite strenuous.

“It’s a lot more physically demanding, and something that I didn’t know is there’s a lot more science behind what we do on the fire aspect,” he said, adding that despite the challenges, this is exactly where he wants to be in life.

“I’ve always wanted to have both the fire side and the EMS and have them work together for the rest of my career.”

According to Hilliard, who heads the training department, this year’s batch of recruits was trained slightly different due to COVID-19.

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“I think the biggest thing I can say is that we had to adapt and overcome,” he said. “We were very limited in terms of people we could put together for training.”

Hilliard added that this batch of recruits was brought in earlier than usual, and were trained in a different format. Usually recruits are run through fire and EMS training, then put out onto the street.

This year, Hilliard said they were put onto the street first, then proceeded with their simulated training.

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All 12 have previous EMS backgrounds and have been hired full-time, according to Hilliard.

“The way that we did this shows that our recruit process works very well,” he said. “We’re able to take people who have prior experience and put them onto the street, and they adapt very well to our system that we have here.”

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