National Run Survey: Busiest Ladder Companies of 2006

New York City's Ladder 26 and Winnipeg's Ladder 1 earn honors for U.S. and Canada respectively.

While there is no water supply issue, narrow streets often provide quite a challenge as fire equipment traverses through the city. "In the core (downtown), there's a lot of old stock (buildings). We're often referred to as the 'Chicago of the North.' So, there's a lot of potential for serious fire loss..."

He said the department suffered a tremendous loss in February when two captains were killed in a flashover. Several others were hurt in the same incident.

People considered for employment must already hold firefighter and paramedic credentials. Once hired, they attend a five-week orientation at the Winnipeg training academy to familiarize them with procedures and SOPs

Requiring that training is making recruitment more and more challenging," Sim admitted, adding that the department was faced with 40 retirements in the past year. Filling those slots wasn't easy.

The training facility includes a tower and burn building. They got away from conducting their own 18-week academy years ago.

Winnipeg has three boats, and specially trained personnel to handle water rescues.

They also have technical rescue technicians as well as firefighters with Hazmat training. "Winnipeg has a large rail hub and level 4 research lab. So, we have to be ready..."

The department also has two fully-equipped hazmat units.

There are six rescue companies, and those personnel are dispatched to staff the ladders. "They get their tasks on the scene."

The crews work two 10-hour day shifts (6 a.m. to 8 p.m.), followed by two night shifts (8 p.m. to 6 a.m.). Then, they have four days off. Sim said personnel are very happy with the configuration because it gives them so much freedom for other activities.

"We switched to it in the '60s, and they like it because they can have a business on the side ..."