Comox fire Chief Gord Schreiner wants to assure Comox residents and those throughout the Valley despite approval by the City of Courtenay for a new fire training facility in east Courtenay, the Comox Fire Training Centre will remain open.
“I’ve been getting lots of questions and some phone calls, even people asking me if we’re shutting down,” he explained. “It’s business as usual.”
In June, Courtenay council agreed to pay for a new training facility near Home Depot, and was unanimous in endorsing the withdrawal of $2.5 million in order to get the centre built quickly.
Council also approved a recommendation to design and construct a second firehall, which could be ready in 2017, with the training facility ready by early next year.
Courtenay Coun. Jon Ambler, a member of a select committee of council, said the new facility “is not the same” as the Comox centre.
“It’s going to be a completely different facility. It’s sort of like when you have hockey skills camp — there’s one for shooting, one for skating but you need a place to have a practice or play shinny with the entire team.”
In June, Courtenay Coun. Bill Anglin noted a “critical need” for a new firehall and training ground that will complement the Comox fire training centre. A simulator, for instance, will provide realistic training to enable firefighters to make split-second “life and death decisions.”
Ambler added the Comox facility offers “very, very good” individual skills and Courtenay members will continue to train at the centre.
Schreiner explained the Town of Comox and the fire department has spent 20 years developing their training centre to a point where he said “it is one of the best in Canada. We are happy to share with others and we have additional capacity.”
Union Bay fire Chief Mark Jackson, who spent 32 years with the Vancouver Fire Department agreed.
“… I believe that the Comox Fire Training Centre is better than the training centre I used in Vancouver,” he added.
The facility is partnered with the Justice Institute of BC to provide all of the training necessary to certify firefighters and fire officers, noted Schreiner, and trains fire departments across the Island and the province.
“We do so by providing both skills and scenario-based training. Many of the fire officers in the Comox Valley have received command training at this centre.”
The Courtenay fire department is a municipal-rural fire rescue service with six full-timers and 42 volunteers protecting about 35,000 people, and Ambler explained the new facility will also aid in the recruitment of volunteers.
“The heart of volunteering is recruitment and training … we’ve come up with something that will definitely help with that.”
Schreiner said managing a fire department is a lot like managing any business.
“Decisions we make must make sense both practically and economically. By building up our training centre over the years, we have managed to keep the costs down while ensuring that we are covering all of the skills necessary for today’s firefighters.”
— With files from Scott