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NWCC home of new emergency training centre

From the Terrace Standard July 22 edition By Kat Lee Theres a new game being played on Northwest Community Colleges ball field. Over the last couple of months, welders and firefighters have been joining together steel shipping containers on the college grounds, cutting out doors and windows and adding railings to certain places. Last week, the containers were finally pieced together to roughly resemble a four-storey building, the heart of the Terrace Fire Departments new regional fire training centre. The fire department has been using donated empty houses or structures for training but the controlled atmosphere in the new centre will give off the simulation of being in a real fire and high danger environments. The facility will be multi-use, incorporating training like rope work, ladder work, search and rescue, live training, and low visibility. Its going to change the way emergency services workers train in the Northwest, Terrace fire chief Peter Weeber said, noting that a fundamental weakness in the fire service is skills maintenance. This project, he says, will give emergency workers and industry access to a first class training facility at a minimal cost. The primary function is to give the firefighters the ability to train in a safe, controlled environment, Weeber said, adding that it will minimize the chance of people getting hurt, especially volunteers who may not have a high level of training at first. Our goal is to bring that (high-level) training here, he said. The facility will also hopefully relieve pressure on rural volunteer fire chiefs to train their staff. Itll be focussed on survival skills for a rural first responder; most training comes from an urban-setting perspective with high rises and units of 10 to 15 people, while Weeber says its different for emergency services in the Northwest - most crews consist of four to five people, so this training will reflect that. He points out that the city has never been able to build a facility where regional members can go and train. This facility will solve those problems, he said. Most of these communities are very small and dont have the capacity (to train like this). While Weeber says that Kitimat does have a small training facility, it is not a regional facility. Once built, this new facility on the college campus grounds will allow firefighters from areas like the Nass Valley to get proper training. The volunteers that havent gotten the training they need now will get the training, Weeber said, noting that sometimes training is not available due to people because of the high costs of travel and accommodation needed. The cost (here) will be reasonable. The idea for a training centre like this has been floating around for quite some time, he said, but explained that there hasnt been the resources to build one. Weeber has been working to ensure that the training facility, currently estimated to cost more than $250,000, doesnt burden local residents, and says he has been looking outside of the community for money for the project through government, corporate sponsorships and in-kind donations. Weeber is hoping to line up some major sponsors, and has received a lot of support from three organizations. (They) recognize the impact this project will have on the safety of our volunteers and the people they serve, Weeber said. I can easily say that this project is the single largest public safety initiative in the history of the northwest. CN Rail is donating $40,000 in cash, a $15,000 rail car, and has transported 10 shipping containers up here, a contribution worth $25,000. There are six 40-foot containers and the four 20-foot ones. Theyve been very active in our area, Weeber said of CN. First Nations Emergency Services (FNESS) has also donated $40,000 to the training centre. The college has put in $20,000 and is donating the land for the facility. This partnership (with NWCC) is ideal, Weeber said. NWCC president Stephanie Forsyth agrees, saying the collaboration with the fire department will allow the college to provide the needed training. It was getting to expensive for the Justice Institute [of B.C.] to come up here and offer the programs here people require, Forsyth said of the post-secondary institution based in New Westminster. But this will be more than a fire training centre, she said; it will be a full-on emergency services training place to be used by one and all. When it is all established, youre going to see some pretty advanced training, Forsyth said. Its an exciting project, Weeber said. Im pretty pleased. The grand opening is scheduled for this September.

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