Editor’s note: This is the third of a three-part series that shows how far the Rankin Inlet Fire Department has come in the past five years as it readies to officially open its new training centre in Rankin Inlet.
The satisfaction is evident on the face of local Fire Chief Mark Wyatt as he stands on the second-floor railing at the new Rankin Inlet Regional Fire Training Centre in Rankin Inlet this past week.
It’s been five years in the making for the chief, who remembers what his first visit to the old training facility had him thinking.
Wyatt said he knew immediately that what he saw wasn’t an acceptable form of training.
He said people were simply not going to learn anything really dramatic in terms of fighting live fire while training that way.
“Going into one sea can, turning a corner and putting out a fire is not proper training,” said Wyatt.
“It doesn’t teach people up here how to safely deal with the types of fire situations we can encounter, and a fire in Nunavut is no different than a fire in Calgary, a fire in Mexico or anywhere else around the world.
“Structure fires are structure fires and there are basic things you need to know in order to fight fire. We have many multi-storey buildings here, as well, that, if you don’t have a facility to teach people how to pull a charged hose line up or down a flight of stairs and fight a fire on that level, then you’re not teaching them how to be safe or deal with things.
“So, basically, what you have is a territory full of firefighters who should never be going inside a building.”
Wyatt said you also get a lot more property loss when firefighters are not trained properly.
He said the new training facility in Rankin Inlet is key to training firefighters not just locally but also the Agnico Eagle firefighters and others from across the territory.
“The level of training you get up here right now through the Office of the Fire Marshal is OK, but it’s Nunavut-certified, not Canada-wide certified or worldwide certified because we don’t have the facilities or the expertise to get it to that point.
“This new training facility is going to give me the opportunity to probably get it certified by a school down south like the Justice Institute of B.C. or the College of the Rockies, and I’m certified to be able to train to that level.
“So my goal, really, is to get people trained here to what’s known as the pro board or initial firefighting course, a seal that says they’re qualified to fight fires anywhere across Canada that they may choose to go.”
Agnico Eagle a partner
Wyatt said it took a long time just to find a proper location for the new training centre.
He said location after location was looked at, but then turned down for various reasons.
“Finally, we arrived at a location to build it behind the ball diamond, which was approved by hamlet council, but then a new town planner came in and dusted off the file on that property and figured out that nothing should ever be built there.
“Which was good because had we started drilling pilings into that particular location, there could have been some real problems.
“He helped us find the current location just at the edge of town and it’s the perfect spot.
“I also wanted to develop a facility that would also be able to work well with the Agnico Eagle team. They’ve been a major partner in this and, when this whole Covid thing is over, it’s going to vastly improve their level of training as well.”
The cost of the new facility is a little more than $500,000, with Agnico Eagle putting in $250,000, the fire department raising $75,000, $100,000 coming from the Government of Nunavut through a small capital grants program, and hamlet council agreeing to put a portion of a budget surplus run by the department the past two years into the training facility as well.
Wyatt said the new facility is going to present some really unique and challenging training opportunities for the firefighters.
He said some time in the future the training firefighters receive in the new facility will save someone’s life.
“It’s a proud moment every time I see my firefighters perform well in real time and they’re only going to improve moving forward.
“We’ll be using the new training facility every week now until it’s too cold to do so, and I’m working with my officers to put together a training program for each week, so we know how we’re going to progress with it further and further to get people as advanced as they can this winter.
“Next spring, when things open up, I think we’ll see a lot more courses from the Office of the Fire Marshal happening here, and I’m going to be working with them to try and develop some advanced live-fire courses.
“The Office of the Fire Marshal is revamping its training program, as well, and together I think we’re going to do some great things for this community and this territory.”