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Calgary city councillors go from the frying pan to the fire… training

Coun. Jennifer Wyness joked that it made her realize she needed to work on her upper-body strength.

She also recognized how important it is to have the right equipment and a good team behind you.

Wyness and most council colleagues took part in Fire Ops 101 on Monday. It was their chance to see firsthand what Calgary firefighters might do on any given day.

Councillors were at the southeast Calgary fire training facility early Monday (8 a.m.), to ensure they were geared up and ready for the day’s challenge. They had three primary tasks: Put out a fire (while searching for people), use the jaws of life to remove a patient from a vehicle, and attend a mock medical emergency.

“You really get that sense of urgency, like, we don’t know what’s going to be thrown at us today,” said Wyness.

“This is what firefighters go through. You don’t know what call is going to come over and you’re always kind of ready to go.  That must be stressful for someone to live day in and day out, always wondering what your next call is going to be and how you have to respond.”

Wyness was among four councillors that put forward a motion in March to review the cost to have the Calgary Fire Department resources reach National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) standards.

Codey McIntyre, president of the Calgary Firefighters Association, said his team has been looking forward to putting this event together for the past two months.

“This is a great opportunity for your mayor and city council to come down and see what your Calgary firefighters do day in and day out,” McIntyre said.

‘No substitute for seeing it’: Coun Mian

After putting out a fire in a burning building, Couns. Jennifer Wyness (centre) and Jasmine Mian (left), speak with firefighters about the experience. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY

While being there for the day was fun, Ward 3 Coun. Jasmine Mian said that you quickly realize the seriousness of a firefighter’s job.

She said when you’re in the building, you’re seeing the smoke coming at you and you’re thinking “who’s got my back? Do we have the right equipment?”

Mian said understanding the logistics of delivering fire protection is important.

“But when you’re in it, you see that if that doesn’t show up, it’s a matter of life and death.”

Last budget year, the Calgary Fire Department received an extra $10 million from Calgary city council. That allowed for the hiring of 62 recruits.

This November, the next four-year budget will need to be set.

Mian said while firefighters are explaining it, and they’re experiencing it, it has an impact. What they’ve experienced will reside in the backs of their minds come decision time.

“Now I’ve seen it and there’s nothing – there’s no substitute for seeing it,” she said.

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek also took part in the training. It was her second time after doing it back in 2019.

“All of my colleagues are starting to understand the same things that I learned back then,” the mayor said.  

“And it reinforces how you have to get out into the shoes of someone that you are making policy decisions for.”

The mayor also said it’s good for building personal relationships with the city’s fire units.

“That’s what we’re here for. We’re here for public service, fire’s here for public service,” she said.

“If we don’t build relationships with each other, we’re not going to be making strong decisions. We’re not going to understand what we need to do for the people of the city.”

Couns. Dan McLean (left), Sonya Sharp and Terry Wong show off the tools for patient extrication – the Jaws of Life. DARREN KRAUSE / LIVEWIRE CALGARY