MANITOUWADGE --Many children have dreamed of becoming a firefighter when they grow up, and with good reason. These hard-working men and women earn our respect by being brave, steadfast, and willing to risk their lives in the line of duty.
Becoming a firefighter is a hard, but exciting and fulfilling mission; one that takes a never-ending amount of training. The 21 Manitouwadge volunteer firefighters have been hard at work all summer long, practicing and honing the skills they may need when attending a fire, accident or other emergency situation. They could be seen in various locations around town on Thursday evenings, hauling hoses, crawling into confined spaces in full gear and many other simulated situations they may face whilst performing their duties.
The former Golden Age Senior’s Club house on Manitou Road, which is slated for demolition at some time in the future, is being utilized as an indoor training centre for the volunteer emergency responders. The building has been vacant for more than two years, the former occupants having moved into their modern new building up the road. Most of the furniture had been removed, and the utilities, such as water and electricity, had been shut off, creating a perfect canvas upon which to custom build areas that would mimic real life situations.
For this week’s ‘Downed firefighter’ drills, fire chief, Don Kruger, and Deputy Fire Chief, Kelly Dorion placed barriers inside the clubhouse; they used old furniture and mattresses and built low walls out of thick vinyl gym mats. They put up thick curtains and painted the windows to create a truly realistic simulation, then they pumped the building full of theatrical fog through which the rescuers would have to crawl through.
Wearing their full gear, which included thick clothing and gloves, masks, radios, meters and sensors, three teams of two prepared themselves to go into the ‘burning building’ and rescue their fallen comrade. Keeping the rules of LUNAR in mind (Location, Unit, Name or Number, Action, and Resource), the three teams made their way into the smoke on their knees, crawling around the perimeter of the rooms, always maintaining at least one point of contact on a wall. They kept in radio contact with their supervisor and other team mates as they inched their way around the building, searching high and low for the missing person, until their air tank alarm warned them to return to safety. Though it took several tries, the firefighters were eventually able to locate the patient, situated on top of a counter top in the back kitchen area.
Chief Kruger was pleased with their attempts, but warned the exhausted volunteers that in a real-life scenario, things will be much tougher as they would have to battle factors not present in simple training; things such as heat, fear and adrenaline. The training will take place on an ongoing basis throughout the year.
The volunteers are willing to train hard to hone their skills and learn new fire fighting and life-saving techniques. It takes a lot more than simple classroom learning to become a proficient firefighter. It requires wits, intelligence and versatility, not to mention bravery and tenacity, and not everyone is cut out for the job. If you think you’ve got what it takes, that is: be over the age of 18, a high school graduate, physically fit, hold a valid Ontario driver’s license, and are able to pass a criminal background check, you can apply through the Manitouwadge Volunteer Fire Fighter Application website page, or by calling (807) 826-3227.
To those of you who have served or are currently serving in the Manitouwadge Volunteer Fire Department, we thank you for your service. We hope you stay safe, and wish you good health and happy training!