TransCanada to make $2 million land donation for Alberta fire training
Fire Chief Jim Smith has battled grassfires in the middle of lightning-filled thunderstorms, wild land fires in dry and windy conditions and large residential and commercial building fires.
In short, he has worked tirelessly to save lives and property in southern Alberta as head of the fire service for the Municipal District (M.D.) of Foothills No. 31.
And in every potentially catastrophic situation, Smith has relied on his classroom training and practical experience to keep him and his fellow firefighters safe.
Traditionally, that training has been held in less than ideal facilities – usually in classroom-like settings around the local fire hall without the opportunity to practice in simulated situations.
“Typically, the only way to get practical experience is to go on actual calls. But that’s a bad place to do training, to respond to an actual structural fire when somebody’s life could be in jeopardy. So we need a secure, stable environment for our training,” says Smith.
State-of-the-art facility to be built near High River
TransCanada is about to help make the training more effective for first responders. The company will donate 60 acres (24 hectares) of land from its Saddlebrook Industrial Park within the M.D., just outside of High River, for future development of a regional Emergency Services Training Centre.
The facility – which will be built by the M.D. in collaboration with the Town of High River – will serve as a one-stop training shop for all personnel in the region.
The state-of-the-art facility will provide both practical and classroom training to first responders and include elements such as a live fire/burn tower, vehicle extrication and burn pad, and a liquid fire/dangerous goods training area.
Structural fire conditions will be simulated in the live fire/burn tower by burning straw and wood to produce heavy smoke, creating a vision-obscured and reality-based environment for firefighters to train in.
“In this controlled environment, firefighters will learn not to depend on their eyes as much as their ears for listening and moving throughout a burning structure,” Jim explains.
Additionally, firefighters will have a chance to practice extricating people quickly and effectively from cars, in a real-life scenario.
Land with a history
The land where the training facility will be built is valued at approximately $2 million, and already has a legacy of supporting the region.
In 2013, TransCanada offered a portion of the land to the province for flood-relief support, providing a location for emergency housing to High River residents.
Terri Steeves, Vice-President of Gas Projects at TransCanada, says, “As a company with employees who work with emergency personnel, we think it is important that local first responders who safeguard and protect our communities have the training resources they require to respond quickly and effectively to local needs.”
With the location now secured, the M.D. and the Town of High River can move forward with seeking funding opportunities and developing the initial design of the training centre.