New purchases will enable St. Thomas firefighters to deliver ‘a better service,’ says chief

An investment in “the next step in tools” and a consolidation of vehicles in the fleet will allow firefighters to “deliver a better service to the community,” advises St. Thomas Fire Chief Rob Broadbent.
Delivery of next generation portable extrication tools last week and city council’s authorization Monday to purchase a new rescue vehicle gives his crews a capability not experienced in the past, adds Broadbent.
At a demonstration and training session behind the main fire hall, a group of firefighters experienced first hand the flexibility and portability of the battery-operated extrication equipment.
extrication demo 1jpg“We had made contact with the supplier after we had done an evaluation in the fall and that was the tool of choice,” Broadbent explains. “Last Thursday was the final evaluation and unless something went terribly wrong then the intent was that was the equipment we were purchasing.”
He adds the fact the tools are completely self-contained, gives fire crews a capability not experienced with the equipment on hand.
“They are totally portable and will serve for auto extrication, but they will also serve for other rescue opportunities. We can take them inside a building, we can take them down into a ravine, any confined space.”
They replace tools at the main fire hall purchased in 1991, which will be disposed of at auction.
“It has served the community well, it was a good purchase in 1991 but it’s 26 years old and we’re experiencing some minor issues that require some costly repairs,” notes Broadbent.
extrication demo 2jpg“We do have a second set at Station 2 that is almost identical to the ones we are getting rid of, so we have the ability to respond in the north end for an auto extrication call or a rescue call. But we have limits because they have a 50-foot cable on them. By watching the use of them the other day – the agility, the portability – it’s the next step in tools.”
The training session wasn’t limited to tearing apart a car at the Wellington Street station.
“After the demonstration, we went down to the Timken plant that’s being demolished and talked to the contractor there and they let us go inside and use it for forcible entry on doors and concrete block walls. And that’s an option we haven’t had in the past. We were tethered to a 50-foot cord but now we can take them wherever we want.”
Broadbent notes extrication tools are called upon “several times a year.”
He points out two on-shift trainers per platoon are trained in auto extrication.
“They in turn take that training back and deliver it to the rest of their crew. So, last night (Mach 13) in the snow, when I left council I came back to the hall and on the on-duty crew for their training period was outside with a car tearing it apart. And that was pretty realistic conditions. We don’t always tear a car apart on a beautiful, sunny day.”
At Monday’s meeting, council authorized spending $704,500, excluding HST, for the purchase of a new medical and rescue truck to replace a pair of ageing vehicles.
The new extrication tools will be placed on that truck upon its arrival in a year’s time.
“This will be coming from the U.S. It’s not coming from the same manufacturer that the bulk of our apparatus is from. It’s from a company called Rosenbauer, it’s a European heritage but they’re certainly a very common brand in North America. They’re sold from Res Q Tech Systems in Woodstock, they’re the dealer.”
new fire rescue vehiclejpgIn his report to council on the vehicle purchase, Broadbent notes “approximately 1/3 of our specialized rescue equipment stays in the station on a first response, relying on a called-in fire crew to respond with it or an on-duty crew sent back to the station to retrieve it should it be required on scene.”
Reducing the fleet number by one vehicle, Broadbent says, will result in reduced overall maintenance costs.
“The small rescue truck we have was purchased for a particular purpose. It’s now 15 years old, however, and it was a very good entry into the tiered-response medical . . . but it does also compromise our ability to carry some of our equipment so this new truck will make our equipment complement the staff we have. It’s a very good fit.”
The specifications and design of the vehicle was based on input from a committee of firefighters, “from very junior people through to senior people. We checked with technicians through the engineering department (environmental services) that repair them . . . so we’re not buying unique parts for a particular thing, so I think we’ve done our homework. I think the new truck will certainly allow us to deliver a better service to the community than perhaps we do right now.”

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