Saskatoon·CITY HALL

Saskatoon Fire Department rekindles pitch for regional firefighting training centre

The city's fire chief says a 10-hectare property could draw trainees from near and far.

10 hectares needed for proper all-in-one training centre, says city's fire chief

The Saskatoon Fire Department wants a training facility to host trainees from all over the province. (CBC)

The Saskatoon Fire Department wants the city to be home to a training facility for firefighters from all over the province.

The large and comprehensive facility would be operated by the Saskatoon Fire Department but offer training to other departments, including volunteer ones and those from remote northern communities.

"In the volunteer world, they have heavy turnover because guys don't keep their skills. Who feels safe going into a burning building or doing hazmat calls?" said Morley Desmarais, the president of Saskatoon Firefighters Union Local 80.

"You need to have these skills and be confident in doing them."

An all-in-one training spot

The facility is not a new idea; it dates back to 1988, says Morgan Hackl, chief of the Saskatoon Fire Department.

But the need for it has only intensified in recent years, according to the city.

A few years ago, a burn house and tower located behind Fire Station No. 1 on Idylwyld Drive that was used for training had to be torn down for safety reasons.

The Saskatoon Fire Department has since offered training at different locations, which is not ideal, said Hackl.

Current training happens in several locations, which the fire department says is not ideal. (Saskatoon Fire Department)

Having an all-in-one location would be better, Desmarais agreed.

"It would have to be relatively close to Saskatoon, if not right on the edge of Saskatoon. Otherwise you have to take guys right off shift to be able to do the training all the time because they'd be unable to respond [to actual fires] from too far away," said Desmarais.

Close to the city

Several locations have been considered since 1988, most recently the Civic Operations Centre on Valley Road, in the city's southwest corner.

Hackl said the ideal land parcel would be a minimum of 10 hectares — about the size of 10 sports fields.

The training would encompass all aspects of modern-day firefighting, including training responding to structural fires, vehicle collisions, hazardous materials, water rescues, paramedic services, and confined-space, high-angle and rope rescues.

"If I look back to 1987 when I was hired, we were strictly fire-based, with some medical component. Today, our training is very advanced," said Hackl.

Saskatoon Fire Department Chief Morgan Hackl says he'd like the initial phase of a regional firefighter training facility up and running in the city by 2021. (CBC)

The first phase of the facility could potentially cost approximately $5 million, said Hackl.

The idea is to expand it into a full-service training centre over several years, he added.

Hackl would like the initial phase to be up and running by 2021.

City councillors will talk about the latest iteration of the idea — initially flagged in the 2018 city budget — this Monday at city hall.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Ottawa, originally from Cornwall, Ont.

Story tips? Email me at guy.quenneville@cbc.ca or DM me @gqinott on Twitter.

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