Powassan Fire Department using instructional DVDs to partially train firefighters thanks to Enbridge Gas grant

A $5,000 grant from Enbridge Gas is likely to save the Powassan Fire Department thousands of dollars in training costs over the next several years.

Each year in Ontario Enbridge awards grants to fire departments where the utility operates to help supplement the training firefighters at those departments receive.

For 2023, Enbridge Gas identified 50 fire departments that will share in its $250,000 donation and the Powassan Fire Department was among the 50.

Ben Mousseau, Powassan's fire prevention officer, says the Enbridge grant was timely because it allowed the department to buy a full set of 30 DVDs that instruct firefighters in a variety of scenarios like forcible entries, building construction, ladders, ropes and salvage.

The DVDs are from Action Training Systems, a company that's been producing training programs for emergency responses for more than two decades.

The total cost of the DVDs was $7,800 and the department dipping into the municipal budget made up the difference for what the Enbridge grant wasn't able to cover.

Mousseau said “the DVDs can replace an instructor and basically be a classroom” for all the firefighters. Replacing the instructor is where the local fire department will save money.

During the summer of 2021 the Ontario government closed the training portion of the Ontario Fire College in Huntsville where firefighters in the province could go and receive both classroom instruction and hands-on training.

The program was subsidized including meals and lodgings and fire departments only had to absorb the cost to get to the college.

The province replaced the college's training component with Regional Training Centres.

“But you're looking at $2,000 to $3,000 per member per course to go to one of the centres and that doesn't include lodgings or meals,” Mousseau said.

Mousseau said while the DVDs “were a pricey purchase” locally the hope is the discs will save the municipality money over time because the firefighters can get their training from the contents from each disc instead of going to a Regional Training Centre.

The way the Powassan Fire Department has designed its local training, the DVDs will easily last more than a year and then can be repeated. Mousseau says the firefighters train on Mondays. He says in one session they will watch a DVD on a particular fire operation, take a written exam and on the following Monday they go through a hands-on training session based on what they learned from the DVD the week before. Mousseau says the crews have gone through a couple of DVDs and have found them to be very instructional for both the veterans and rookie volunteer firefighters.

It was Mousseau who applied for the Enbridge Gas grant and he applauded the utility's ongoing effort to help small fire departments.

“It's a tremendous partnership Enbridge has with fire departments,” he said. “The $5,000 was much appreciated by our fire department and was also likely welcomed by other fire services.”

Enbridge has been approving grants to fire departments under its Safe Community Project Assist program since 2012.

Powassan Fire Chief Bill Cox also welcomed the Enbridge grant.

Cox said it's “always a challenge for small municipalities to maintain the proper level of training in order to keep firefighters and subsequently the public safe”.

“Firefighting is becoming an increasingly technical occupation, ever changing as new hazards emerge,” said Cox.

Cox added partnerships that Enbridge has forged with fire departments “go a long way in helping” those departments keep residents safe.

Rocco Frangione is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter who works out of the North Bay Nugget. The Local Journalism Initiative is funded by the Government of Canada.

, Local Journalism Initiative, The North Bay Nugget