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Milton Fire Department putting good use to Mohawk backstretch

November 18, 2014

November 18 – The Mohawk backstretch may no longer house hundreds of standardbreds, but that doesn’t mean the facilities aren’t being put to good use.

The Woodbine Entertainment Group and Millton Fire Department have teamed up to allow the now vacant Mohawk barn area to be used as a training resource for local firefighters.

Currently, the dorm and Barn A, the former ship-in and lasix barn, are being used to train firefighters for real life situations.

The opportunity to use facilities in good shape and for an extended period does not come along that often for the Milton Fire Department.

“I would say it is relatively rare,” said Scott McLaughlin, the training officer for the Milton Fire Department. “Every now and then we get an acquired structure, which is when someone is going to tear down a house, but generally speaking we might only have it for a few days or a weekend, so here it is nice because we can think about what we can do.”

Some of the exercises being performed include pulling hose, rounding corners, search and rescue missions, throwing ladders and getting onto the roofs.

McLaughlin explained that using the dorms for search and rescue missions makes the training as close as possible to a real life situation for the firefighters.

“One of the neat things is that people haven’t been into these spaces, so at the fire hall everyone knows the space and is comfortable, over here people are going in like they would at a real scene and not being familiar with it.”

To create a real life experience, McLaughlin sets up a smoke machine in different areas and then sends firefighters into to rescue “patients”. While it may sound easy, the smoke machine fills the room to the point that the firefighters have almost zero visibility.

The firefighters participating in the training sessions are not only new and part time firefighters, but also veteran firefighters take part in the unique training sessions.

McLaughlin said the firefighters have been excited about the opportunity to train on the Mohawk backstretch.

“Working in the training division is a challenge to keep the guys motivated and interested, but having something like this gets them excited because it’s a place they haven’t been and they don’t know what is in front of them.”

One of the many benefits of the training sessions at Mohawk is teaching firefighters how to deal with barn fires.

McLaughlin noted that barn fires are tricky situations to deal with because of the unfamiliar space, flammable objects and horses. The firefighters are not only trained about how to go into the space, but also how to get the fire controlled quickly.

Paul Hollingshead, Captain of the Milton Fire Department, also takes part in the training at Mohawk and has been happy with the response from his crews.

“Luckily here in Milton a lot of the guys have a very positive attitude about doing stuff like this, because we do have a training centre and you can only do this type of stuff so many times in a very generic thing,” said Hollingshead. “But this one here gives us a unique situation every time.

Hollingshead also pointed out that having the two-level dorm to use is an opportunity they don’t get very often.

“The bulk of the buildings we get are usually residential homes, but something like this is unique because it is a two storey kind of an apartment building and it is extremely rare that we have the opportunity to train on a two level building with a lot of occupancies in it.”

The Milton Fire Department is using the Mohawk backstretch about three times a week. Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday nights part time crews come in for training, while every Wednesday morning the full-time crews come out to Campbellville for their sessions.

According to McLaughlin, the amount of training time put in by the fire department has increased significantly.

“Crews want to go more than we are taking them, but we have to do other things. Sometimes we have to tell them no, but it’s probably doubled our training. We are probably training twice as much because we have these places and just trying to get people out in the fair weather before the snow comes.”

The Milton Fire Department plans to use the facilities throughout the winter and continue to develop new training methods and techniques to better prepare its firefighters than ever before.

The partnership with the Milton Fire Department reinforces WEG’s corporate commitment to improving the quality of life in our community. The company will continue to work closely with many organizations that protect and improve the life, health and vibrancy of our neighborhood.
-Mark McKelvie