Firefighting is not an easy job.
Hours of boredom can be quickly followed by heart-pounding situations in which death and injury are a very real possibility.
The Prince Albert Fire Department has had many strong leaders over the last century, and sadly, they lost one last week.
The retirement of Les Karpluk no doubt came as a shock to many in the community. The well-liked chief, a fixture at Raiders games and highly visible around the city, announced his decision last Friday.
His legacy in part will be defined by his zeal for professional development for the people in his care.
He saw the value of continued upgrading of skills, a move not only to meet National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards, but also to help ensure the safety of firefighters heading out to calls.
For the last several months he added another hat to wear, as a columnist for the Daily Herald. The passion and commitment he showed to his job shone through his words.
Most of the columns dealt with his focus on training and discussed the binders and binders full of exacting standards that helped keep his people safe and make them better at their jobs.
There are projects that he no doubt wishes that he could have moved along.
He was an advocate of evening out his four shifts so that they each had 12 staff. Currently, two have 12 and two have 11.
Another major initiative that he was leading was the need for at least one substation in the city.
The aforementioned NFPA has a standard response time of six minutes and 20 seconds for 90 per cent of the calls.
In January of 2013, Karpluk told Daily Herald reporter Tyler Clarke that the city wasn’t close to meeting that goal.
“We’re looking at getting on scene in that time frame 40 per cent of the time, so we don’t meet the standards,” Karpluk said.
The area that firefighters took the longest to arrive at was the southeast quadrant, which had an average response time of more than nine minutes.
The concept of building a substation in that area isn’t exactly new.
A 2008 master plan cited the need for substations in both the city’s southern quadrants, backing up an idea that has been floating around for decades.
An additional reason for the need to get a substation is counter intuitive. Karpluk says that the new homes actually burn more quickly because most are built with a lightweight truss structure.
“There are a lot of benefits to it for the construction industry, but the burn time on them is 50 per cent faster,” Karpluk told Clarke.
He’s a man that knows what he’s talking about.
Karpluk has become a much sought-after speaker at fire conferences across the country, another area he’ll be winding down.
It’s easy to take over an organization and settle for the status quo. It takes courage and energy to push people to a higher standard, something Les Karpluk did in his time in the top job.
He gave 32 years to the Prince Albert Fire Department, the final eight as the person guiding the way for dozens of people.
From the community you served, thanks Les. May your retirement be long, healthy and happy.
Prince Albert Daily Herald