Firefighters learn how to keep communities safe at 21st Annual Northern HEAT Conference

Firefighters practice using their hoses and advancing together to make a wall of water during an industrial fire, holding back the flames until the valve feeding the fire can be closed down.

Susan Thompson
Express Staff

Firefighters from across Alberta converged on Peace River last week for the 21st annual Northern H.E.A.T. Conference.

H.E.A.T. stands for Hands on Education and Awareness Training, and the conference included two days of live fire training at the Peace River fire department’s training site on the West Hill, as well as two days of lecture-style presentations by renowned national and international instructors.

A trade show at the Chateau Nova for the conference was also open to the general public.

“We have over 50 firefighters from around Alberta that have come here to take the training from about 20 different fire departments,” We even have some firefighters from the NWT, from BC, and even one actually from Newfoundland,” says Peace River Fire Captain Tim Harris.

“The conference allows firefighters from smaller communities to experience training they wouldn’t normally get in their own communities. It started off small, with just a few of the fire chiefs just getting together to talk about issues. The last 10 years we started bringing in high class instructors which has really grown the conference.”

Live fire training included four different stations.

Firefighters were split into groups and spent half a day at each station.

“The live fire training gives some guys the basic training with Class A materials, so they experience the actual heat from a fire, the smoke, they can actually see fire behaviour, how fires develop, how the smoke builds up in a container, the effects of ventilation so when you open the door how it affects how the fire grows,” says Harris.

There are not many municipalities that are fortunate to have such a high quality training facility.

“When we had the two story seacan, we were only the second one in Canada to get that,” Harris says.

“We can have firefighters come in and go upstairs to a fire or come in the top and go down to a basement fire.”

Other hands-on training included Firefighter Survival and RIC Operations with instructor Frank Nasca of the Livermore / Pleasanton Fire Department, California, and Vehicle Extrication Tactics with Randy Schmitz of the Calgary Fire Department.

Presentations from speakers included subjects such as Leadership, Teamwork, and Wildland Urban Interface fires in Alberta.

The Northern HEAT conference is held in Peace River every year in May.


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