Plenty to see at Winfield Fire Department’s open house

The Winfield Fire Department held an open house on Saturday, Oct.4 to show off some of their new equipment to the public, and there was plenty to see.

Winfield Fire Chief Doug Goltz (left) and County of Wetaskiwin Fire Chief Ken Carlson hold up a new piece of emergency breathing equipment during the Winfield Fire Department’s open house

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The Winfield Fire Department held an open house on Saturday, Oct.4 to show off some of their new equipment to the public, and there was plenty to see.

“We’re showcasing our new pumper truck that we just got at the end of May. It was built in South Dakota and sold by a Red Reed company,” said Chief Doug Goltz of the Fire Department. “It has a 1,050 gallons per minute pump with a remote control monitor on top. It has a power ladder rack and it meets the new EPA (Environmental Protection Agencies) specs.”

The new pumper truck was one of two new additions to their fleet with the other being an even newer rescue truck.

“Well, there isn’t enough left out of $300,000 to have a good party,” Goltz said with a chuckle when asked how much the pumper truck cost. “This has been in the works for three years. It was partly funded by the tax base at the County of Wetaskiwin. We’ve been saving or banking money for close to five years and this is the culmination of all of it.”

The chuckles didn’t stop there however as Goltz went into a bit of detail about their previous truck, and it’s ultimate yet ironic demise.

“The other truck we had was a 1981 model, and as luck would have it about two months before this one was to arrive, it burned up on us,” he said. “So now we’re kind of famous as the fire department that burns its own firetrucks down.”

While insurance payments funded the new rescue truck which is less than one month old as is already in use, the fire department still needs to customize it a bit to meet their needs and outfit it with equipment, but they’re already looking down the road.

“If things go right, we’re budgeting to buy a new tanker in the spring. The one we have is 30 years old as of right now – it was our prime response truck at one time, so we’re going to replace it next year,” Goltz said adding the new additions are a welcomed sight. “This is excellent. It’s been 30 years coming to where we can finally say we have good equipment in Winfield and I think we have as good equipment as any department in the area.”

While the trucks were the most visible attraction for the public to check out during the open house, they certainly weren’t the only pieces of new equipment on display as the department unveiled some other vital firefighting tools in the form of new, high-tech breathing tanks.

“We’re upgrading air tanks and self-contained breathing apparatus for all six fire departments in the county. We bought 40 of them all together and they’re about $4,800 each,” said Wetaskiwin County Fire Chief Ken Carlson. We need them to deal with up-to-date requirements from Occupational Health and Safety that we have to have up-to-date equipment for fire fighters to make sure they’re safe and everything’s working properly.”

With a capacity to hold 4,500 pounds per square inch of air and a duration of 45 minutes per bottle, the new breathing tanks are more than twice as effective as the old ones and also feature some new technology such as an accountability system that allows them to see for example, how long a fire fighter has been inside a dwelling.

Other safety features include an in-visor screen display such as those used by jet fighter pilots, the ability to share air with another fire fighter should it be required and an emergency alarm that will sound if a fire fighter goes down and does not or cannot get up. On top of that, the new tanks are much lighter than the older models, something that is going over well with the chief and his staff.

“This is a big addition, a nice perk I guess you could call it,” Goltz said. “These cylinders are a lot lighter than our old steel cylinders.”

As for the department itself, the chief said they currently have 16 volunteer members and through their innovative Junior Firefighters Program, are already looking to the future to shore up their ranks.

Currently, the program features three young adults – two girls and one boy who are, for the most part, involved in all aspects of the department but because rules stipulate they must be at least 18 years of age to become full-fledged firefighters, they can only do so much.

“They’re members of the fire department to a point,” Goltz said. “They’re not allowed to go to emergency scenes and things like that, but they go through our in-house training with us, they participate in all our activities and when they turn 18, I hope they become members of our department.”

With Fire Prevention Week upon us, the members of the Winfield brigade will be paying a few visits around the community including the local elementary school where they hope to explain a few things to the students, the younger ones in particular.

Chief Goltz said the members will be donning their full gear for the Kindergarten and Grade 1 children not so much for theatrics, but to alleviate any fears they may have in emergency situations.

Incidents from throughout North America have indicated that in many cases, young children are more apt to run and hide from a firefighter in full gear because they mistake them for some sort of alien being. Add in the rather cryptic sound emanating from the breathing equipment, and it could very well become a recipe for disaster for a frightened child.

The fire department will also be taking their annual visit to the community’s West Pine Lodge in November to do a walk-through with the seniors including going over their escape routes in the event of an emergency and to check their smoke detectors – something Chief Goltz said everyone – not only seniors, should make a habit.

“That’s one of the big things – smoke detectors in the home,” he said. “We go to so many incidents where the people claim they weren’t working or they didn’t hear them or something, and when we check them out, the batteries are gone because little Johnny needed them for his CD player or somebody took them pout because they were burning supper.”

In closing, Goltz acknowledged all the support the fire department has received from area service clubs, various organizations and individuals in fundraising events over the past number of years.