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MD of Willow Creek capital plan includes proposed firefighter training facility

The MD of Willow Creek may see a firefighter training facility adjacent to its building if the capital plan moves along the way they hope.
Finance director Johanne Hannas presented the multi-year capital plan on Oct. 13, which has proposed projects along with their costs, until the year 2019.
“To apply for grants, you have to have a multi-year plan in place,” said Hannas, adding nothing on the plan is set in stone.
Hannas went over some of the larger items, such as a new photocopier, and said they would like to begin budgeting for radios and bunker gear.
“We would be looking at digital radios versus analog,” Hannas said.
The estimated cost for new digital radios in all departments is $100,000 each year from 2016 until 2019, totalling $400,000.
Chief administrating officer Cynthia Vizzutti said while it has a large up-front cost, in the long run it is cheaper.
Fire Chief Travis Coleman made a presentation on a training facility for firefighters.
The facility, which could be built on the land next to the Willow Creek building near Claresholm, would allow firefighters to have easier and less expensive access to a state of the art training facility.
Estimated to cost $500,000 in total, Coleman said it is likely that if this concept went forward, town councils within the county would be approached to request a contribution of funding as they would also benefit from it.
Firefighters now rent other training facilities at a cost of $5,000 to $10,000 per year, not including other costs including travel and supplies.
There is also a lack of ability to properly train on tasks such as forcible entry or cutting through the roof.
“We never do this because nobody lets us go in and just beat the heck out of their doors,” Coleman said.
At a training facility, they could safely train their firefighters to a higher standard in areas such as ice rescue, ventilation, and how to handle flammable liquids.
“We could also generate revenue off of this,” Coleman said, adding it wouldn’t be a lot but it would help to offset the cost of the facility.
Coleman said they’re paying anywhere from $2,500 to $3,000 per day to rent a facility to train their 105 firefighters within the MD of Willow Creek.
Another positive is that it would not use toxic gas as they do not use any class A fuel, and all props are steel that can be sprayed as though it’s a realistic fire.
“It’s non-toxic and we don’t have to worry about our gear getting wrecked,” Coleman said, adding it’s not dangerous and the water and oil mix makes it look like smoke without polluting the air. “Our ratepayers wouldn’t have to worry about that.”
Vizzutti said the jobs of firefighters have evolved beyond just putting out fires and the training the firefighters are put through each year is invaluable.
“They are truly an emergency services system,” Vizzutti said. “They respond to everything, from a spill to a heart attack. The level of training has had to evolve with that, and the firefighters themselves, demand that level of training. We willingly provide it to keep them safe and to provide that service.”
Vizzutti said she takes her hat off to Coleman and his crew.
“They’re working really hard to take all this training and respond,” Vizzutti said. “I don’t know where we would be without them.”
Hannas said the concept would be re-examined come budget time, and then an open house would be held after they see what kind of Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding is available for 2016, since that’s where the money would come from for any facility.
Right now, the plan is conceptual only and council was only asked to approve it as such, not to make a final decision on whether it would be happening.

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