MNR firefighters training for the big one

Local Ministry of Natural Resources firefighters spent most of this week taking part in a final three-day training session at Vedette Lake up Highway 502.
Although there haven’t been any major forest fires so far this year in the region, the firefighters are preparing for the inevitable as the weather heats up.
“This kind of a boot camp gives them an opportunity to do some hands-on stuff that they don’t get to do usually,” explained fire operations supervisor George Page.
For three days, about 45 crew members went through drills and sat through lessons, brushing up on the skills they may be required to put to use in high-pressure situations during the summer.
“There’s constant training when they come in the spring,” said Page. “They get a big binder that’s called our mandatory training that they have to learn.
“We went through their mandatory and supplementary training and concentrated on the skills they will use during a fire,” he added.
Some crew members are local residents while others have come from across the province to work for the MNR here, rooming in apartments around town.
“We’re packed, we’re six in one room,” laughed crew member Mark Holmstrom.
But with the possibility of an action-packed summer, travelling from blaze to blaze across the province, the firefighters weren’t very concerned about their accommodations.
The drills included unloading and loading a helicopter, ignition for creating burned-off barriers, remote access camps and camp set up, how to protect valuable buildings from approaching fires, and first aid training.
“The actual living in the bush and being comfortable in the bush is something we have to concentrate on,” said Page.
For the first aid drills, crew leaders took on the roles of victims of a helicopter crash, with students given 45 minutes to perform proper first aid under the guidance of instructor John Beaton.
“Stuff like this is really important for them to do because it’s the hands-on stuff,” said Beaton.
“It’s all different reactions if it comes to the crunch,” agreed Page.