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All Things CF Firefighter (merged)

ff149

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I retired from the fire trade last year. I know there were some changes they were working on. The basic fire fighter course is around 7 months long. Once you start training the only breaks are for summer block leave or Christmas block leave depending on when your course starts. I know before they were looking at getting rid of the semi skilled fire fighter side as there were issues with the level of training people had prior to entry and that we would accept training that was conducted up to 5 years ago. You will drive during your QL3 course both in the training area and on the base itself, you still have to qualify when you get to your fire hall. I'm not sure of when you get your level 1 (NFPA 1001) it may be once you are completed your OJT package after your QL3 course. You do not get any Ontario qualifications as the fire school does not give those out, you would have to challenge the test on your own time after the course.

Sorry I couldn't be more help, the trade was under going a huge change as I was leaving and I'm not sure how much has actually changed and what was still in the work. If I hear anything concrete I'll give updates.
 

danteh

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Scuba_Dave said:
So I am in the process of VOT to Firefighter, just completed my pre entry fitness evaluation yesterday and am waiting to hear from the BPSO. Just a few questions with regards to CFFA. How long is the training? I see on the recruiting website that it states around 7 months, but what is the actual training time? Also, what qualifications do you acquire? Is it NFPA 1001 and your OFA 3? As well I understand you take the 404s course but do you drive the apparatuses while on course or is that something that is held back until your QL5's?

Any information is appreciated.

Thanks in advance!

The course was 9 months when I went through (5 years ago) but they could have easily taken off a month or too so it honestly could be 7 months now. In terms of training time, if the course is 7 month, you are spending 7 month training (minus block leave ie summer or xmas). They recently revamped the qualifications you get. I believe you still get your Fire level 1, hazmat ops/awareness (unless they removed hazmat) and you should get your pumper/driver. In terms of driving.. The minute you start structural and arff runs you are driving. You will be in charge of doing DIs every morning and knowing that truck inside and out. You will also do more driving when you get to a hall. CF halls are not like civvi halls. On civvi side you have experienced members driving. In the CF, you can (and probably will) start driving after a month or so just because of lack of bodies. At least in Trenton, QL5s dont drive anything but RIV.

Keep in mind that over the past year the trade has gone through and obscene amount of changes and things are still changing so it will be hard to get many answers.

If you have anymore questions dont hesitate to ask here. I can do my best to answer questions about the academy but like I said above, things are changing so my info might not be accurate. If you have questions about halls and/or postings i'd be happy to help.
 

mariomike

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danteh said:
CF halls are not like civvi halls. On civvi side you have experienced members driving.

You mentioned "the major lack of call volume." There is also severe traffic congestion. And, it takes years to memorize the streets, points of interest and landmarks in a big city.

For that reason, our Emergency Services buses and trucks had permanent drivers who not only had seniority, but also did well on the driving test and had clean driving and accident records.

 

danteh

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mariomike said:
You mentioned "the major lack of call volume." There is also severe traffic congestion. And, it takes years to memorize the streets, points of interest and landmarks in a big city.

For that reason, our Emergency Services buses and trucks had permanent drivers who not only had seniority, but also did well on the driving test and had clean driving and accident records.

Very true
 

mariomike

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An old, but interesting and informative post,

Harbinger said:
While at a fire hall you work shift work - 4 days, 4 days off - 4 nights, 4 days off - split shift of 3 days, 3 nights than 6 days off.

Can anyone say how many hours per week that averages out to? 40? 42? More or less? I would guess 42.

( Some shift patterns take 6-weeks to average out. )

Are those 10/14 or 24-hour tours? Is there a dormitory?

Danteh?

 

danteh

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mariomike said:
An old, but interesting and informative post,

Can anyone say how many hours per week that averages out to? 40? 42? More or less? I would guess 42.

( Some shift patterns take 6-weeks to average out. )

Are those 10/14 or 24-hour tours? Is there a dormitory?

Danteh?

In Trenton we work 24 hours shifts so we do 24 on 24 off 24 on 5 days off so its 48 hour work weeks but in all reality your not really working 24 hours. Your just at work. Before we went to that shift we were on 4 days, 4 off, 4 nights, 4 off, 3 days 3 nights, 6 off. You work less hours but I honestly felt like I was always at work. At least with the 24 hour shift, I really only work 7 days a month and that is not taking into considerations leave or just days off.

Not all firehalls are the same. I hear Greenwood is trying to do a modified version of the 24 hour shift. Some halls refuse to go to 24 hours for some reason also.

All firehalls will have an area to sleep in. I have yet to see or hear of a firehall not allowing their guys to sleep on night shifts. In Trenton at our new hall we have rooms with 4 beds in them. In the old hall, our training room had 7 murphy beds in them.
 

mariomike

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danteh said:
In Trenton we work 24 hours shifts so we do 24 on 24 off 24 on 5 days off so its 48 hour work weeks but in all reality your not really working 24 hours. Your just at work. Before we went to that shift we were on 4 days, 4 off, 4 nights, 4 off, 3 days 3 nights, 6 off. You work less hours but I honestly felt like I was always at work. At least with the 24 hour shift, I really only work 7 days a month and that is not taking into considerations leave or just days off.

Not all firehalls are the same. I hear Greenwood is trying to do a modified version of the 24 hour shift. Some halls refuse to go to 24 hours for some reason also.

All firehalls will have an area to sleep in. I have yet to see or hear of a firehall not allowing their guys to sleep on night shifts. In Trenton at our new hall we have rooms with 4 beds in them. In the old hall, our training room had 7 murphy beds in them.

Thank-you, Danteh. So, it's 48 hours per week. I thought it might have been 42.

Some weeks I worked 60 hours, others only 24. But, it always averaged out to exactly 40 hours per week.

We only had 90 seconds to get "wheels rolling" from when the tones went off. That was on the bus. The cars only had 60 seconds.

Thanks again. From reading this thread, it really sounds like a great trade.

 

ff149

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One thing to remember is that many halls you have to come in on days off for certain things such as dental appointments, range qualifications, even some trade required training (such as first aid etc). We are required to have a certain level of manning and if we are over they maybe able to cover you but usually not.

The main reason that many halls do not want to go to 24 hour shifts as due to leave requirements. Working 24 hour shifts as was mentioned you only work 7 days a month, now most people have 25 days leave, multiply it by the number of people on shift and it gets difficult for everyone to get their leave in. Also we have required training to do every month, many people argue that you can't do the required maintenance you need to do every day, then make your training requirements at night without something being skipped. Not picking one side or another, just stating the reasons I've heard over 14 years as to why they would not go with the 24 hour shift.

I know a lot of places were contracting out the maintenance portion of the trade, but the danger to that is that at what point will the military say we can contract out the fire trade, and no I don't mean making everyone DND firefighters, but actual contractors such as SNL or such. This is already done on certain bases (and yes bases that have active flight lines).

The shift options are one of the biggest issues that have persisted in this trade for as long as I can remember and you can't satisfy everyone. It is a really good trade and has helped me in my retirement find further employment.
 

mariomike

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Thanks for that, ff 149. Enjoy your retirement, you earned it!
 

danteh

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ff149 said:
The main reason that many halls do not want to go to 24 hour shifts as due to leave requirements. Working 24 hour shifts as was mentioned you only work 7 days a month, now most people have 25 days leave, multiply it by the number of people on shift and it gets difficult for everyone to get their leave in. Also we have required training to do every month, many people argue that you can't do the required maintenance you need to do every day, then make your training requirements at night without something being skipped. Not picking one side or another, just stating the reasons I've heard over 14 years as to why they would not go with the 24 hour shift.

To take leave on a 24 hour shift requires two annual because you are working what the military classifies as two work periods. The only people who have a hard time taking leave are the WO/Sgts just because of the lack of them in the trade. As a QL5(which is still pretty hard to find many of in the trade now) I have never had an issue taking leave. In terms of training, there should never be a reason why training cant get done. You have 170 hours a month to knock off 10 training elements which you can usually combine 2-4 of them in one exercise. Hell even the weekly safety talk usually knocks one off.

ff149 said:
I know a lot of places were contracting out the maintenance portion of the trade, but the danger to that is that at what point will the military say we can contract out the fire trade, and no I don't mean making everyone DND firefighters, but actual contractors such as SNL or such. This is already done on certain bases (and yes bases that have active flight lines).

Trenton is a base that contracts all maintenance out. We dont even do extinguishers anymore. We got an opportunity to talk with the CFFM a few months ago and the exact comment got brought up about us being contracted to DND and he said there is absolutely zero chance because the union that deals with the DND firehalls refuses to ever deploy their guys and it is cheaper for the CF to deploy CF firefighters so they are obviously going to do that. He said for us to go DND there would have to be complete 180s in the contracts, union beliefs and costs all simultaneously. They would need to send firefighters overseas for both deployments and USAR missions, to the FOL in Inuvik to cover the fighters, and to Alert year round. They would need to spend the money to have them all ARFF qualified not only as a driver and hose/rescue man but as sector commanders and PCs. They would need to spend the money to train them in USAR because we now cover that. If they wern't going to pay for that, then the CF would have to delegate another unit and pay for them.

At the end of the day one DND firefighter is making ALOT more then one CF firefighter of the same qualification. And lets not even talk about overtime and sick days.

What base were you at before you retired?
 

ff149

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Danteh,

I served, as a firefighter at Greenwood, Shearwater and Borden prior to getting out. Different bases had different ideas about the 24 hour shift, some places only needed one day leave because your work day is 24 hours. This is the answer we had back in Shearwater when we looked at going 24 hour shifts, the other reason was feeding people as there were thoughts that they would have to provide meals of some sort.

As far as the training I've been around long enough to know that some places the training was not being done even under the  10/14 hour shifts. My last place I worked was the school, that made it real clear that some places, not all places where not doing all the training. It would even vary among the crews at the same hall, all depends on the WO/Sgt you had.

Being at the school I talked to senior people through out the trade, these were answers that I heard from them. I understand about the deployment part, I've been deployed. They have deployed civilian contractors to other countries (prior to Afghanistan), so that can be done, just not with DND firefighters. It was done in Bosnia with SNC, I believe. And prior to this believe it or not the military use to deploy without firefighters. That is something that we've done in the past, but not with the numbers that we have done recently. It is only the last little while that we would do domestic deployments for firefighters. For the longest time the way you got deployment medals was when you were deployed on the ships (I know we are coming off of the ships, and I've lost count of the number of times I'd heard that would never happen because of various reasons).

I've got no bone to pick in this, I'm out of the trade. I'm just saying that in the past 14 years that I was in many of these ideas came up, went away and came back again. It happened even more when you talk to the firefighters from years ago as well.

Just remember that DND civilian firefighters are not the only option they have if they wanted to go that route. Many places have lost their love of DND firefighters due to the overtime issues. Some bases now only have civilian departments responding, Kingston use to have a military fire department not anymore. Other places have had rumours floating around about going that route as well. The fire trade is small and if they were looking for ways to cut, stranger things have happened, especially when not a lot of people know that we have military firefighters. And we do not have a large call volume. I know previous CFFM's have been trying to push more fire prevention then fire suppression and having the numbers reflect that as well. Like I mentioned the good idea fairy keeps revolving and what was out of favour before becomes the next great idea.
 

danteh

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ff149 said:
As far as the training I've been around long enough to know that some places the training was not being done even under the  10/14 hour shifts. My last place I worked was the school, that made it real clear that some places, not all places where not doing all the training. It would even vary among the crews at the same hall, all depends on the WO/Sgt you had.

That honestly has nothing to do with the shift but the crew chiefs and up. I have seen alot of instances where people were just signed off on their 4's package because the school needed people to fill a course.

ff149 said:
I've got no bone to pick in this, I'm out of the trade. I'm just saying that in the past 14 years that I was in many of these ideas came up, went away and came back again. It happened even more when you talk to the firefighters from years ago as well.

Oh I agree completely. The trade is so much different than it was when I first got in.
 

Scuba_Dave

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Thanks ff149 and Dantech. I do realize there are quite a few changes happening. Currently have a few friends in the trade who were out here in Esquimalt. Would either of you happen to know what the current state of the halls are looking like personnel wise? I do know that no matter what the CM is going to place you where he needs you the most obviously, but if one wanted to go to Comox, Edmonton or Trenton etc..What were/are the chances of getting your choice of base?

I am assuming based solely off the facts that firefighters have been pulled off the ships, and the BPSO (at least here in Esquimalt) is conducting remuster applications for the trade monthly or as they come across their desk, that the trade is in a hard spot right now. Just weighing out possibilities for what could be. Im all for the adventures of moving to a random place, but love the mirage of thinking I had something to do with my future postings.

Cheers!
 

Scuba_Dave

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And now for the noob question, having been in now for 12 years, I have seen FF deploy...On ships. I had noticed one of you state that deployments do happen as a firefighter, I am just wondering what kind of deployments you would be involved with? Sorry for being completely oblivious to the situation lol
 

ff149

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Scuba Dave,

Postings change constantly so what is available now will probably be changed by the time you get on course. What has happened before (and each CM is different) is that the CM will give a list of bases available part way through the course. People are then given sometime to think about where they want to go. If there is a legitimate reason for requesting a certain base (compassionate etc) you would ask then, with appropriate paperwork. I've seen courses where everyone was able to work it out among themselves and got what they wanted, I've also seen courses where they leave it up to the CM to decide. Usually that is for people going to Cold Lake.

The trade has always had a problem with retention. People get in the trade, go somewhere they don't want to go, find it different from what they thought it was going to be and decide it is not for them. The military can not compete with the pay that civilian fire halls offer and some people use the trade for training to give them a leg up in getting on a civilian department. I know they are trying to reduce the postings both for morale reasons and also for budget reasons.

Just saw the other post. Firefighters have been deployed to Afghanistan both in KAF and on FOB's. We have also gone on domestic deployments (G8/20 in Huntsville). Sometimes they will go to other exercises in Canada. As well there have been firefighters deployed in recent areas and I believe some still are. They have also deployed to Nepal, and Hati for HUSAR. Some of these deployments are for fire fighting or crash protection, some are for fire prevention/inspection reasons. Depending on the reason for the deployment would dictate what rank or qualification would be required. Generally inspection/prevention deployments require a higher rank (both because of the training required and for how other trades deal with you). I've done both domestic deployments and overseas. It can be hit or miss as to who gets them. HUSAR would be Comox or Trenton. The rest depends on the generating authority and which element gets tasked with coming up with the people (army, navy, or RCAF) although with the firefighters coming off of the ships and I believe Shearwater falling under Greenwood now there may not be any firefighters falling under Navy command.

The trade has not done a very good job of letting people know that there are military firefighters although that has changed in the last 10 years. I've had army officers come to me (when I was in our cadpat coveralls) and ask if that was the uniform I wore when I wasn't in Pet. He didn't realize that there were military firefighters. As well I've had an air force officer think that after the tower closed in Shearwater we went home, not knowing that we were there 24/7 for the rest of the base not just the Sea Kings.

With all its challenges the trade is very interesting. A lot of it is what you make of it and how your crew is.

Hope that helps.
 

Scuba_Dave

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Totally helps! I know I can't believe how many folks don't realize that there are military firefighters. Surprisingly even folks here in Esquimalt. Lots of interesting things ahead, can't wait for this part of my career to start. Having been in the Navy and seen/worked with quite a few firefighters onboard ship, I am quite surprised this didnt happen sooner in my career, I digress!

Thanks again for the info. I am certain I will have many more questions in the future, so thanks for being around to answer them

Cheers!
 

mariomike

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ff149 said:
HUSAR would be Comox or Trenton.

For anyone interested in HUSAR,

Vancouver (CAN-TF1) Heavy Urban Search and Rescue
http://vancouver.ca/home-property-development/urban-search-and-rescue.aspx

Calgary (CAN-TF2) Heavy Urban Search and Rescue
http://www.cantf2.com/#about

Toronto (CAN-TF3) Heavy Urban Search and Rescue
http://torontoparamedicservices.ca/special-units-teams/heavy-urban-search-and-rescue/

Manitoba (CAN-TF4) Urban Search and Rescue
http://www.firecomm.gov.mb.ca/usar_team.html

Manitoba is USAR.

The aim is also to develop HUSAR capacity in Montreal (Quebec) and Halifax (Nova Scotia).
https://www.publicsafety.gc.ca/cnt/mrgnc-mngmnt/rspndng-mrgnc-vnts/hvyrbn-srch-rsc-en.aspx




 

danteh

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ff149 pretty much summed it all up.

The halls from what I hear are somewhat hurting. I believe Cold Lake has gone down to three crews and Greenwood is down to three crews for PCs. Even Trenton is hurting in a sense. Take my crew for example. We have our PC, 1 Master and 7 QL3/QL4s. We are so bottom heavy now that its hard for supervisor roles to take leave. You are right that the CM will put you where he needs you but your posting preference will always be considered. Our new CM is really good from what I hear so that is a plus. Again I cant really speak for other bases, but if they are as bottom heavy as Trenton is, your likely to get your posting preference. The CM is more worried about moving around MCpls and up to fill the halls with leadership.

 

ff149

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The main issue for supervisors is that most of them (us) had over 20 years service and were of the age where we had to make a decision to either stick with the military until 60 or get out when we did. That was my options. The trade has a huge gap between the people with 10 years service and 20 years (if I remember the last CM briefing which I saw, that was in 2015). The bigger issue is now there are people being promoted into positions where they wouldn't be considered for years ago. People coming to the school after one posting as a firefighter. Which can be good to get younger blood and thoughts into places, but they are coming in with very little experience. The same goes for the fire halls, Platoon Chiefs are getting less and less experience. Or are coming from slower bases.

Marionmike,

As far as I can remember the military fire fighters would not be used for domestic deployments, unless it is a major event. The military fire fighters are the primary team for over seas deployments through the federal government. With the team from Trenton probably being the first to deploy. The main issue is keeping everyone current and the cost of training as people get posted out of those two units. There was talk at one point about incorporating HUSAR training into the QL3/QL5 level training, but I'm not sure where that stands. 
 

mariomike

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ff149 said:
Marionmike,

As far as I can remember the military fire fighters would not be used for domestic deployments, unless it is a major event. The military fire fighters are the primary team for over seas deployments through the federal government. With the team from Trenton probably being the first to deploy. The main issue is keeping everyone current and the cost of training as people get posted out of those two units. There was talk at one point about incorporating HUSAR training into the QL3/QL5 level training, but I'm not sure where that stands.

Toronto HUSAR ( CAN - TF3 ), although well trained, does not have a lot of operational experience,

June 2016 - Mississauga natural gas explosion
June 2012 - Collapse of the Algo Centre Mall roof/parking structure in Elliot Lake, Ontario
August 2011 - Goderich Tornado
April 2003 - Bloor Street West natural gas explosion in Toronto



 
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