While needing more information to proceed further, it looks like Municipal District of Taber council is warming to the idea of a proposed emergency training facility for regional municipal firefighters to train in.
“There is a lot of evolution-based training scenarios that we could do,” said Mike Bos, fire chief for Taber Emergency Services at M.D. council’s Jan. 14 meeting. “It’s like training for the army, you can’t really train until you do it. But we also expect to meet the individual firefighter skills.”
“In assessing the M.D.’s service level and how this would meet it, with regards to mutual aid, could the M.D. fire departments aid the Town of Taber in the case of a large fire?” he asked.
“We’d like to think we can handle everything, but we can’t handle everything. If we require 12 to 15 people in case a big fire goes up in the middle of downtown, there’s no way we couldn’t handle it without help. Whether it’s calling Lethbridge, Grassy Lake, Vauxhall, or whatever.”
Cost of the proposed training facility, with a site still to be determined, would be phased over two years at $90,000 per year and built out of sea cans (shipping containers).
The proposal would be for one-third cost splits between the Town of Taber, the M.D., and funds Taber Emergency Services have raised through fundraising initiatives like the Taber Charity Auction.
The first year $90,000 would get a base facility off the ground with the basics, and operational, according to Bos.
“We’re hoping for input on it; it doesn’t have to be my training centre. In designing it, I’d like a committee of members on it,” said Bos.
“It will be for use in the general area.”
While having no official piece of land designated yet for the proposed training facility, Bos added he has looked at some sites, including some M.D. property next to the dump.
“For water supply we would be using our pond,” said Bos.
M.D. councillor Merrill Harris noted during discussion period any type of extra training opportunities that can be given to a volunteer firefighter, regardless of area, is money well spent.
Harris had a couple of structures on his farm which were used – burned down – for training purposes for firefighters.
“It helps volunteers for real-life fire situations where you let a fire go on purpose. You can head to Lethbridge, or Medicine Hat, or wherever where these other training spots are, but it makes it more difficult for our volunteers,” said Harris.
“It’s money well spent to train them locally where they can get some hands-on experience before you put them in fire situations. I support it in principal.”
Reeve Brian Brewin noted the Grassy Lake fire department only has enough volunteers for evening service.
“My concern remains, the old bar in Grassy Lake could start on fire which is literally right across from the fire station and Taber gets called. They could fight that whole fire with our truck that’s parked next door. So, I think cross-training would be helpful and bringing all the rural departments together, be it Vauxhall, Taber, Barnwell etc., that has to be a good thing,” said Brewin.
“That’s what I see, one common training centre.”
For volunteer firefighters to train in Lethbridge or Brooks, there are extra costs attached which councillor Bob Wallace noted which could be saved in the long run through the proposed training centre.
Having a training centre closer to home increases the chances mass volunteers can train at the same time to meet necessary standards.
“It sounds like a lot of money at 90 thousand bucks, but in reality, it’s just like paying for a piece of capital equipment. You can have equipment, but you have to have someone to be able to run it properly,” said Wallace.
Councillor Duff Dunsmore stressed it is hard enough as it is to get volunteer firefighters in the more remote rural areas, making training as easily accessible as you can would possibly encourage more of that volunteerism.
“And also, you don’t want to have to have a paid fire department, this is real cheap compared to that,” added councillor Ben Elfring.
M.D. council passed a motion unanimously a letter of support for the proposed training facility in principle, requesting further information like exact locations, M.D. labour required for earth moving etc.
“I think we have to dig into this a little deeper and make sure the town is on side with this too before we move forward, so there is some direction and commitment,” said Brewin.