New Brunswick

N.B. firefighters work on bus crash rescue skills after Humboldt tragedy

Fifty firefighters from 18 different departments were in Riverview, N.B., on Saturday to learn and practise their bus extrication skills.

'I don't know if you can ever fully be prepared until you actually face it,' instructor says

Southern New Brunswick firefighters gathered in Riverview to learn how to deal with a major bus cash. (Philip Drost/CBC)

A major bus crash is a situation no firefighter wants to face but needs to be ready to handle, says a New Brunswick firefighter and instructor.

"As we've seen in the media, out in Saskatchewan, the tragedy that happened out there, anybody, any community throughout Canada has the potential for something like this to happen," Mike Nicholson said Saturday.

With the memory of the Humboldt bus crash tragedy still fresh, firefighters from the South Eastern Firefighters' Association of New Brunswick got together in Riverview to learn, review and practise their rescue skills.

With stations set up and real buses, 50 firefighters from 18 different departments learned what to do in case of a crash. 

"We want to be able to handle it if it should happen and that's where all this training comes into play," Nicholson said.

Using an old school bus, firefighters learned how to stabilize the vehicle. (Philip Drost/CBC)

Some of the training involved how to stabilize the bus and where and how to cut open a bus to get people out.

Children with fake injuries were used to teach participants how to triage the injured. 

The association started planning the training session eight months ago. In April, 16 people were killed and 13 injured when a trailer truck collided with a bus carrying the Humboldt Broncos, a junior hockey team.

"I don't know if you can ever fully be prepared until you actually face it, but certainly the training is going to help," said Nicholson. 

Children with fake injuries were brought in to teach firefighters how to triage the wounded. (Philip Drost/CBC)

The training began with firefighters arriving at the scene, assessing the bus while looking for hazards and then making sure the bus is stabilized.

Nicholson showed firefighters different ways of stabilizing the bus, depending on the situation. 

After that, firefighters need to be able to get into the vehicle and help people out of it, he said. ​Participants practised on an old school bus and an old transit bus.

"It's very important because it not only applies to a bus, you can apply this to ... a transport truck, even a plane crash. The concepts are all going to be the same," Nicholson said. 

Participants practiced their new skills on an actual school bus and transit bus. (Philip Drost/CBC)

Volunteer firefighter Luc Comeau says he wants to be ready in case he has to deal with the same kind of scenario.

"It's not going to happen often for sure but if it does once in your firefighter career, at least you'll have practice and you'll be ready," he said.

"You got to practise because if you don't practise, you're going to forget pretty quick."

About the Author

Philip Drost

Philip Drost is a reporter with CBC New Brunswick.