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Posted on: September 30, 2020

Fire Training Weekend held in High Level

Fire Practice Sept 25 20Firefighters from Rainbow Lake and Zama City joined the High Level Fire Department to learn and sharpen their firefighting skills at High Level’s fire training centre this past weekend.

The large training event took place Sept. 25-27 and is held several times throughout the year. It focuses on using a large number of firefighting skills in a short amount of time. The weekend featured the inclusion of the Rainbow Lake fire department as well as the newly re-activated Zama City fire department.

“It was a really good weekend,” said Rodney Schmidt, Director of Protective Services and High Level Fire Chief. “It was a lot of work and a lot of heat. There are a lot of moving parts for a training scenario like this together – but it was well worth it.”

The event started with a vehicle fire exercise that included additional wood and the cover of night for added difficulty. Firefighters then moved on to The Propane Tree – a dramatic exercise simulating a high-pressure fuel line fire.

“We only do that one once a year,” said Schmidt. “It is the largest fire prop we have in the facility.”

The “tree” is nine feet tall and discharges burning liquid propane. The propane expands 44,000 times as it changes from a liquid to gas, creating a very large fireball. Firefighters make an approach, isolate the fire, and then put a hand on the structure to simulate turning off a valve.

“It’s a good exercise because you have to coordinate hand lines and hose lines,” said Schmidt. “It’s not only an exercise in battling flames, but also managing their water streams and doing proper nozzle procedures.”

Saturday, training continued with survival drills that included an exercise known as the “Denver Drill.” The exercise involves rescuing a downed firefighter from a narrow hallway with a high window and is based on a line-of-duty death that resulted from a similar situation in Denver, Colorado – hence the name.

“A firefighter ran out of air and collapsed in a narrow hallway wide enough for only one person,” said Schmidt. “It took them an extraordinary amount of time to get that firefighter out the window.”

Fire Practice Sept 25 10The exercise is intended to allow firefighters to collaborate and come up with their own strategy to get the firefighter out as quickly as possible.

Also on Saturday, firefighters took part in Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus competence drills where they worked on being comfortable in their breathing gear while maneuvering through an obstacle course involving tangles and tight spaces. The training is especially useful for new recruits (HLFD has four!) as well as the firefighters from Rainbow Lake and Zama City who are gaining practical experience to take back to their communities.

The rest of the weekend was focused on interior live fire attacks, where firefighters gained valuable practice putting out fires inside a training structure. The weekend wrapped up with a barbecue at the fire hall and post-event discussion.

While a number of skills were highlighted over the weekend, one of the most important aspects of firefighter training involves team building that is needed for fire departments to be successful.

“These training scenarios are designed around team building,” said Schmidt. “Live fire exercises and specific exercises like the Denver Drill, everyone is helping each other. It’s important to get them working together and trusting each other – and our rookie firefighters need to see that. They are joining this family and they have to see how we operate.”

The weekend event also highlights the need for collaborative training at the regional training centre.

“The events of the past few years really show us we can’t do anything on our own,” said Schmidt. “And training is one of those. Our training facility is the only certified, engineered training facility for live fire north of Peace River. There has been a lot of time and effort put into that facility, and it wasn’t designed just for the HLFD. We’ve had every fire department in the Mackenzie region at that facility at one time or another.

“Gone are the days of firefighters spraying water on a parking lot and pretending there is a fire. You need to have that experience so you’re not getting into trouble when the real deal happens.”

The High Level Fire Department is still looking for volunteers to come join their team. Now is your chance to take part in a very challenging and rewarding volunteer experience!

 For more information, please contact Director of Services and Fire Chief Rodney Schmidt at 780-821-4016 or by email at

Fire Practice Group

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