Training a priority for new fire chief

Tyler
Tyler Clarke
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Prince Albert Fire Department Chief Jason Everitt is seen at the fire hall on 15th Street West on Wednesday. 

His title may have been upgraded, but Chief Jason Everitt maintains his commitment to top tier training at the Prince Albert Fire Department.

 

Everitt was named the Prince Albert Fire Department’s permanent chief effective Aug. 1.

Not much has changed since then, Everitt said on Wednesday, noting that he’s served as interim chief for almost five months.

Former chief Les Karpluk retired on Feb. 28, capping off 32 years of service with the department, of which the last eight were as chief.

Everitt was hired as deputy chief in charge of training and operations in 2012 -- a position he’s retained since taking on the additional workload of interim chief in March.

“I really enjoy the training aspect and keeping my hands busy and working with the crews on the floor -- that’s important for me,” he said.

“I haven’t lost sight of that, and as Prince Albert continues to grow it’s important that we’re able to provide that service in a timely fashion.”

Whether the department hires a new deputy chief remains up in the air, he said, noting that for the interim it will remain a shared duty.

However, this doesn’t mean it’s a lessened effort, he clarified, noting that the department is conducting various apparatus drills this month, as well as practising dangerous goods responses, mass decontamination and technical rescue.

“In today’s day and age with the new construction materials… and some of the new hazards that we’re facing as a fire service, training is essential,” he said.

“We have to keep up with the latest out there, as well as new tools and techniques to match the new hazards that are popping up.”

Born and raised in Prince Albert, Everitt -- a Carlton Comprehensive Public High School graduate -- worked at the Prince Albert Pulp Mill for a number of years, after which he relocated to Alberta to work as fire chief at a heavy oil operating facility in Fort McMurray.

Drawn back to his home province, he took a position as a senior safety officer and training specialist for Cameco’s Key Lake uranium mining operation.

When he got the chance to return to his home city in 2012, he jumped at the chance, landing the deputy chief position.

“We have a great team, here,” he said. “We work together collectively, and from my perspective things are very positive.

“I enjoy coming to work. I have no intention of going anywhere.”

 

I really enjoy the training aspect and keeping my hands busy and working with the crews on the floor -- that’s important for me. Jason Everitt

Additional goals

In addition to the ongoing challenge of keeping their 49 members (including management) up to snuff with training, Everitt faces other changes and challenges.

A reported need since at least 1985, the city still requires a fire department substation in the city’s southeastern quadrant.

“I haven’t lost sight of that, and as Prince Albert continues to grow it’s important that we’re able to provide that service in a timely fashion,” Everitt said.

The fast-burning lightweight truss structures that most new homes are built with make firefighters’ timely arrival more important than ever, he added.

“We used to say a 20-minute rule before the building is in a potential collapsed state,” he explained. “With the new ones, here, it can be eight minutes.”

A fire department need that Karpluk expressed during previous years’ budget discussions at city hall is in filling out the department’s ranks.

The department currently has two 11-person platoons and two 12-person platoons, with two additional members intended to even things out.

Recognizing that every city department will argue for a greater complement of staffing, Everitt said that it’s an area he needs to take a closer look at.

“We understand that there’s a cost to that, so we want to make sure that the return on investment is a positive one and that it matches with the rest of the needs of the community,” he said.

One exciting new feature expected to roll out over the next year is the city’s new Everbridge mass notification system, which Saskatoon is currently deploying.

The system will be used to notify the public of any emergent situation that requires their immediate attention or action, Everitt said, noting that this could include things like fires, flooding, road closures or chemical spills.

The system will pull phone numbers from the white pages, with the public invited to create accounts that add things like cellphones, email addresses and alternate phone numbers to the system.

The public component is expected to roll out next spring, with internal staff checking out the system beforehand.

Organizations: Prince Albert, Prince Albert Fire Department, Carlton Comprehensive Public High School Cameco

Geographic location: Alberta, Fort McMurray, Key Lake Saskatoon

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