18 firefighters worked on sharpening their skills with training in Red Deer on Saturday.

18 firefighters worked on sharpening their skills with training in Red Deer on Saturday.

Earning school credits for firefighter training

A Penhold high school student was among 18 firefighters sharpening their skills at Red Deer’s training facility on Saturday. Nicole Thomson is one of three high school students from the town to enroll in Penhold Fire Department’s cadet program.

A Penhold high school student was among 18 firefighters sharpening their skills at Red Deer’s training facility on Saturday.

Nicole Thomson is one of three high school students from the town to enroll in Penhold Fire Department’s cadet program.

Penhold Fire Chief Jim Pendergast believes they are the only volunteer department in Alberta with the program, which allows teens to train as a firefighter and earn five credits towards their high school diploma.

Cadets undertake the training but do not respond to calls. They can help out at the station after calls by cleaning and putting away equipment among other tasks and when they turn 18 they can join the department as a volunteer.

Thomson said she was inspired to join by two high school friends who were already involved.

“It’s really fun and it’s a great opportunity to learn about the fire service and train with everybody,” said the 17-year-old.

While most volunteer firefighters have regular jobs — many of them in oilpatch fire safety jobs — Thomson has to balance high school and homework with her training.

“It’s kind of hard, but I keep up with it,” she said.

All of the regular volunteers have been very supportive and she is looking forward to joining their ranks when she’s finished high school. She also plans to get her emergency medical responder training before deciding on a career, possibly as a full-time firefighter.

Pendergast said training is a huge part of the job for volunteers. It takes 12 to 14 courses of 40 hours each to become a certified Level 2 firefighter.

Those being run through their paces on Saturday were working on their Level 1 certification, which involves about 280 hours of training in all. They began in February and the weekend tested practical skills such as fighting structure and vehicle fires, rescue and ventilation, and getting out of smoke-filled buildings while disoriented.

Penhold is better off than many departments with 35 volunteers, including eight women, available.

It’s a huge time investment. Volunteers are expected to have the same training as regular firefighters.

“The commitment is a very big commitment because the fire doesn’t know if you’re full-time or volunteer. So you have to be trained exactly the same as a full-time firefighter,” said Pendergast.

That dedication comes with the payoff that they are helping those in need in their communities.

“It’s very rewarding and the comradeship is awesome. They become really close as a group.”

In Penhold, which is growing quickly, the number of calls has been rising just as rapidly. Last year, more than 160 calls were handled by the department, which responds to medical calls as well as fires and accidents within the town.

Through an agreement with Alberta Health Service, Penhold volunteers can act as medical first responders. Minimum training is basic first aid, but most have emergency medical responder training and are further certified as emergency medical technicians.

Jessy Rochette, a 28-year-old mechanic, has been a Penhold firefighter for about 18 months.

He had friends on the department and decided to join.

“It’s pretty rewarding. You get to learn and a lot of days you get to help others,” he said.

The calls aren’t always easy but as a group they talk through incidents afterwards, which helps to deal with issues that arise.

Charity Tyrer, 25, joined after getting her emergency medical responder training.

“I was really interested in the medical side and emergency response in general,” said Tyrer, who works as a safety supervisor with an oilfield services company.

“It ended up being something super awesome. I can use my medical skills and firefighting skills both,” said Tyrer, who has been a Penhold firefighter for six months.

The training is intensive, involving a couple of nights a week and many weekends.

“But it’s fun,” she said.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Alberta identifies 1,183 new COVID-19 cases on Sunday

50.5% of all active cases are variants of concern

Whistle Stop Cafe owner Christopher Scott and his sister Melodie pose for a photo at the Mirror restaurant. (File photo by Advocate staff)
Alberta Health Services delivers ‘closure order’ to Mirror restaurant

Alberta Health Services says it has delivered a closure order to a… Continue reading

Flags bearers hold the Canadian flag high during the Flags of Remembrance ceremony in Sylvan Lake in this October file photo. (Photo by Sean McIntosh/Advocate staff)
New project to pay tribute to Canadians killed in Afghanistan

Flags of Remembrance scheduled for Sept. 11

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
Security and police block the entrance to GraceLife Church as a fence goes up around it near Edmonton on Wednesday April 7, 2021. The Alberta government has closed down and fenced off a church that has been charged with refusing to follow COVID-19 health rules. Alberta Health Services, in a statement, says GraceLife church will remain closed until it shows it will comply with public-health measures meant to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Hundreds gather to support Alberta church shut down for ignoring COVID-19 orders

SPRUCE GROVE, Alta. — Hundreds of people are gathered outside an Alberta… Continue reading

Members of the Canadian Armed Forces march during the Calgary Stampede parade in Calgary, Friday, July 8, 2016. The Canadian Armed Forces is developing contingency plans to keep COVID-19 from affecting its ability to defend the country and continue its missions overseas amid concerns potential adversaries could try to take advantage of the crisis. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Canadian special forces supported major Iraqi military assault on ISIL last month

OTTAWA — Some Canadian soldiers supported a major military offensive last month… Continue reading

A woman pays her repects at a roadblock in Portapique, N.S. on Wednesday, April 22, 2020. The joint public inquiry in response to the April mass shooting in Nova Scotia has announced a mandate that includes a probe of the RCMP response as well as the role of gender-based violence in the tragedy. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Creating permanent memorial to Nova Scotia mass shooting victims a delicate task

PORTAPIQUE, N.S. — Creating a memorial for those killed in Nova Scotia’s… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Erin O’Toole says ‘I didn’t hide who I was’ running for Conservative leader

OTTAWA — Erin O’Toole assured Conservative supporters that he never hid who… Continue reading

Calgary Flames' Johnny Gaudreau, second from left, celebrates his goal with teammates, from left to right, Matthew Tkachuk, Noah Hanifin and Rasmus Andersson, of Sweden, during second period NHL hockey action against the Edmonton Oilers, in Calgary, Alta., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Larry MacDougal
Jacob Markstrom earns shutout as Flames blank Oilers 5-0 in Battle of Alberta

CALGARY — It took Sean Monahan breaking out of his goal-scoring slump… Continue reading

B.C. Premier John Horgan responds to questions during a postelection news conference in Vancouver, on Sunday, October 25, 2020. British Columbia's opposition Liberals and Greens acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented huge challenges for Horgan's government, but they say Monday's throne speech must outline a coherent plan for the province's economic, health, social and environmental future. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP to bring in throne speech in B.C., Opposition wants coherent plan

VICTORIA — British Columbia’s opposition parties acknowledge the COVID-19 pandemic has presented… Continue reading

A grizzly bear walks on a treadmill as Dr. Charles Robbins, right, offers treats as rewards at Washington State University's Bear Research, Education, and Conservation Center in this undated handout photo. Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails like those commonly used by people, which can affect land management practices in wild areas, says an expert who has written a paper on their travel patterns. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Anthony Carnahan *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Grizzly bears prefer walking on gentle slopes at a leisurely pace like humans: study

VANCOUVER — Grizzly bears seem to favour gently sloping or flat trails… Continue reading

FILE - In this July 27, 2020, file photo, nurse Kathe Olmstead prepares a shot that is part of a possible COVID-19 vaccine, developed by the National Institutes of Health and Moderna Inc., in Binghamton, N.Y. Moderna said Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, its COVID-19 shot provides strong protection against the coronavirus that's surging in the U.S. and around the world. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)
The COVID-19 wasteland: searching for clues to the pandemic in the sewers

OTTAWA — When Ottawa Public Health officials are trying to decide whether… Continue reading

Most Read