Saskatchewan is a "prairie province" in the West Central region of Canada covering 227,134 square miles with an estimated population of 1,023,810. Most of the population of Saskatchewan resides in the southern half of the province. The province's name comes from the Saskatchewan River, whose name is...
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Saskatchewan is a "prairie province" in the West Central region of Canada covering 227,134 square miles with an estimated population of 1,023,810. Most of the population of Saskatchewan resides in the southern half of the province. The province's name comes from the Saskatchewan River, whose name is derived from its Cree language designation: kisiskāciwani-sīpiy, meaning "swift flowing river." The Saskatchewan River flows through the center of the City of Saskatoon, the largest city in the province, with an estimated population of 233,923. Other major cities include Regina, the provincial capital, Prince Albert and Moose Jaw. A trip to Canada provided an opportunity to visit a Canadian hazardous materials team, so I contacted the Saskatoon Department of Fire and Protective Services and made arrangements to visit its hazardous materials, or dangerous goods, team.
Saskatoon is home to the Western Canadian Hazardous Materials Conference (www.canadahazmat.com), held annually at TCU Place, considered one of the best conference centers in Western Canada. The conference is presented through a public-private partnership by Envirotec Services Inc. and the Saskatchewan Office of the Fire Commissioner. The 2009 conference takes place Oct. 7 to 9.
Organized firefighting in Saskatoon began around 1882 and consisted of bucket brigades and large barrels of water taken from the river on wagons. Around the turn of the century, hand carts with mechanical hand pumps replaced the bucket brigades. In 1903, a steamer was purchased for Saskatoon's volunteers, along with a few hundred feet of hose and a brass nozzle. Fire Chief D.M. Leyden had 15 volunteers under his direction as the city population exploded. Along with the increase in population came an increase in fire calls. The first permanent fire station was constructed in December 1908 at the corner of 4th Avenue and 23rd Street. Thomas Health, a fire chief from eastern Canada, was hired as the department's first paid fire chief in 1909. Horses continued to pull fire apparatus into the late 1920s. It is unclear when Saskatoon made the transition from a volunteer fire department to a career organization, although on May 29, 1918, the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF) granted a charter to Local 80, the Saskatoon Firefighters Union. In 1946, a three-platoon system was implemented for firefighters.
Today's Saskatoon Department of Fire and Protective Services, under the command of Chief Brian Bentley, responds from eight fire stations (a ninth is planned) with 270 personnel, 11 engine companies, two truck companies, one tanker, two rural trucks, and dive rescue, trench rescue and hazardous materials teams. The city is divided into four districts with a district chief over each. Firefighters work two 10-hour days followed by two 14-hour nights and then have two days off. This schedule is repeated once and then firefighters have six days off. Firefighters average a 42½-hour work week.
Saskatoon Fire does not provide transportation for medical calls, but all firefighters are trained as medical first responders or emergency medical technicians (EMTs). Each department engine company is equipped with an automatic external defibrillator (AED). Ambulance service is provided by the Saskatoon Regional Health Agency, which transports patients to Saskatoon's three medical centers.
Before 9/11, Saskatoon had a limited dangerous goods response capability. The department's team was formed after a risk assessment of the city indicated large amounts of manufacturing and storage of dangerous goods in the area. The first dangerous goods response vehicle was a combination rescue/dangerous goods response unit. In the beginning, the team's 24 to 36 members were trained using the "Surviving the Hazardous Materials Incident" curriculum from Emergency Response. After 9/11, the Canadian government initiated a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Joint Emergency Preparedness Program (JEPP) with funding available for first responders. With that funding, Saskatoon purchased a dangerous goods trailer, a decontamination trailer and upgraded its protective clothing, monitors and decon ability. Since terrorist response is very similar to dangerous goods response, the addition of the CBRN equipment has greatly enhanced Saskatoon's dangerous goods response capability.