Local firefighters are close to purchasing a state-of-the-art training system.
Little Harbour Fire Chief Don Wadden, who is also chair of a fundraising campaign for the Pictou County Firefighters Association, said Thursday the association is about $10,000 short of its goal to purchase a BullEx Attack Digital Fire System that will allow men and women to train for fighting fires year-round in safe conditions.
The digital trainer, sold by Bullex.com, includes screens that lasers can be pointed at to extinguish flames, or actual fire hoses with water.
Wadden said there are smoke sensors in the system as well and the longer the fire burns, the louder the noise gets.
One of its best features is that it is portable, he said. It can be set up in any fire hall or training facility throughout the year, which will be beneficial during the winter months when training is limited because of weather conditions.
“The opportunity in the winter is a big thing,” he said. “You don’t have to take the trucks out in the winter. You don’t have to worry about travelling anywhere to do training. There are a lot of things in the winter we can’t do until the weather is better.”
Wadden said the Pictou County Firefighters Association is going to purchase two screens with the unit at a cost of about $40,000.
Two screens will allow different scenarios to be created during the training sessions, he said. For example, one screen can be placed in the lower level of a home and the second can be placed upstairs. It doesn't have live heat, but has smoke and the flames can’t be extinguished unless the proper technique is used. It can be set to extinguish fire caused by different things, including wood and paper, flammable liquids or electricity.
He said the system also allows more teaching moments, especially for new firefighters who are sometimes overwhelmed by training sessions.
“With the new firemen, you can put it on, but you don’t have to have the heat and other things,” he said. “I know you can scare away some people when we do stuff and they are not ready for it. This way, we can shut this down at any point and if a person is not doing the extinguishing properly, we can use it as teaching moment and say, “Do you see what you did here? Let’s try it this way.’”
He said there is little opportunity for that in live fire training because when the fire is lit, firefighters are sent in to extinguish it. This digital trainer allows people to be cycled through a set of different or similar scenarios.
Wadden said members from each department will be given a training session on the system so everyone will be able to use it.
He said this means more training hours in general because even if the system isn’t set up in a place where water or foam can be used, it can be used in a fire hall with the digital laser.
The digital trainer has been on the association’s wish list for some time, said Wadden, but a recent newscast about Halifax Fire Department’s recent purchase of the equipment was enough for Pictou County firefighters to consider getting one their own.
Wadden said the association has done some fundraising and also received generous donations from local business such as Michelin, Northern Pulp and Pioneer Coal.
It hopes to raise the remaining $10,000 over the next few months and have the system in place by the spring.
Donations to the Pictou County Firefighters Association can be sent to PO Box 15, Trenton, NS B0K 1H0.