“We have to jump on the chance,” said Ward Howat, deputy chief of Buckland fire and rescue.
Howat was there along with the rest of the department on Saturday as they continued their field training.
The Buckland Fire and Rescue Department has been steadily increasing their skill levels and the quality of their equipment.
They now have a full attack team in fire-depression and are skilled in highway rescue and trench rescue.
“I think there was a void in this whole area,” he said.
In order to take their next step, which is training in rescue from a collapsed building and confined spaces, they needed a building to practice in.
“This is a perfect scenario in which this building just missed a whole group of people who could have been injured,” he said.
While no one was in the arena when it collapsed late Feb. 9 or early Feb. 10, the Timberland Bowbenders Archery Club had been using the space all day Saturday.
The fire department’s instructor, Bill McCombs, said that the advantage of doing this training in a building that collapsed on its own, is huge.
“Because it’s real. One of the major aspects about doing a training for this is how to make it as real as possible … It forces people to follow all the rules. Regarding safety … People have a tendency to cut corners … they can’t cut corners here,” he said.
What they are training in is Light Urban Search And Rescue (LUSAR).
“They are being trained only to deal with light framed buildings … this would be the largest building they would deal with,” McCombs said.
McCombs, with Trans-Care Unlimited, is the fire chief of the Langham Fire and Rescue Department and has worked as a contract trainer with Buckland Fire and Rescue several times.
“This is one of the first teams to get this training,” McCombs said.
In all of Saskatchewan this will be one of only two departments to receive this type of training, the other team is the North Corman fire and rescue.
“What we’re training these people for is as first responders,” he said.
In the case of a major disaster forces might still be called in from Saskatoon or even one of the five major task force hubs in Canada, none of which are in Saskatchewan.
After two days in the classroom the crew got to delve into the building, but not without serious safety precautions.
“We have to support the integrity of the building. The first thing we do is breach he building,” Howat said.
They chose to enter the arena via the bathroom.
In this case, breaching the building meant finding the region they felt was the most structurally sound, then cutting a hole in the wall to gain entrance.
“That’s the safest part of the building,” he said.
When breaching a building there are dozens of factors that must be considered, one of the first of which is air quality.
“This is a perfect scenario in which this building just missed a whole group of people who could have been injured,” h - Deputy Chief, Ward Howat
Older buildings are especially dangerous not only because of the stability of the remaining structures but also because of the materials that were used in its construction.
“There’s asbestos especially in the older building,” Howat said.
Upon entering the building they had another real-world scenario to deal with as their gas-reader detected hydrogen sulfide in the air.
“We actually got a hit of hydrogen sulfide, 12 and a half parts per million,” said McCombs.
While it may not sound like much, they had to enter with their gas masks well affixed.
Hydrogen sulfide is a colourless, poisonous gas and can cause immediate death upon inhalation. When in lower concentrations it has a rotten-egg odour. Hydrogen sulfide is created as a by-product in many industrial processes or by the decomposition of organic matter, so it is no great surprise that it was present when entering through the toilets.
This training will continue next week as well as they practice removing victims of a collapse from the area around the fallen roof.
Buckland’s fire department is entirely volunteer run and made up of people who give up many hours and weekends with their families to train, Howat said.
“It’s just commendable,” he said, looking out at his crew.