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'We cannot stop learning': Firefighters practice in Fredericton high-rise

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A University of New Brunswick residence building that's been decommissioned has become a classroom for firefighters.

More than 50 firefighters from across the Maritimes are honing their high-rise fire halting tactics at the Fredericton location.

"The intent is improving our capacity to fight structural fires in mid- to high-rise buildings,” said Dave McKinley, Fredericton Deputy Fire Chief. “With the building construction of more and more of these units, it's important that our firefighters have the skills necessary.”

The experience in a real building versus a training facility adds an element of authenticity to the exercises.

"This is really probably a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Alex Hillier, who started with the Fredericton Fire Department in September. “We train often in our training facility, but to have an actual structure that we can come in and experience real life problems and troubleshoot those is a great opportunity and we're so thankful for it.”

"Now we can simulate real conditions inside of buildings they're going to be fighting fires in,” said Brent Brooks, a firefighting instructor from Toronto. “Traditionally we'd be at a training academy, it's very familiar to us, and we're kind of making things up.

“But, now we're in a real high-rise building, real doors, real windows, real floor layouts, running the same drills that we do at a training academy you cannot duplicate this kind of training.”

"Almost every building is different, sometimes you'll get the cookie cutters where all in a line they were built the same time, but every building's a little different,” McKinley said.

Brooks says firefighting is an ever-evolving industry and it's important for them to keep up with training to stay safe.

“When I started the job we didn't have hazmat, we didn't have auto extrication, we didn't have rope rescue, and tunnel rescue, the list goes on, and cars are changing, e-bikes, we have electric vehicles,” he said. “We cannot stop learning as firefighters."

For more New Brunswick news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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