Students and instructors in the Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training program at St. Clair College can already see the advantages of training and performing lab work in their new home, a two-bay fire station at 1905 Cabana Rd W.
The new St. Clair fire station was previously operated by the Windsor Fire & Rescue Services since 1978 as Station No. 5, which served a large residential neighborhood in South Windsor. In 2014, WFRS shuttered the aging fire hall and relocated Station No. 5 to 2650 Northwood St., next to Huron Church Road. Earlier this year, St. Clair purchased the property from the WFRS for use in the Pre-Service Firefighter program.
Windsor Fire Chief Stephen Laforet believes anytime a Pre-Service program can mimic or replicate the experience of a real working fire hall, the better it will be for the students.
"Firefighting is like most trade professions where you learn the most by having the tools in your hands and using them as much as you can," Laforet said. "Now they have a good facility on hand which puts vehicles, ladders and tools at their fingertips to work on and train with. So I think this provides the students an opportunity to have a good facility to train out of and it brings them to the equipment more than they would have had before. I think this station will attract future students too."
Steve Appleyard has been an instructor in St. Clair’s Pre-Service Firefighter program since 1999 and coordinator since 2018. Appleyard served as a local firefighter for 29 years and believes the ability to train in a real fire hall will be a big tool in student development for many years.
"All classes will still be at South Campus but student labs will be done at the new fire hall," Appleyard said. "In the past we didn’t have enough space, so we had to do our labs outside, and our props and equipment were all in different storage areas. With the new fire hall, all our lab props and equipment can now be utilized in one place."
Athena Dimario, a Pre-Service Firefighter student and varsity women’s soccer player at St. Clair, previously spent four years at the University of Minnesota Crookston studying animal sciences. When Dimario returned home to Windsor, she decided to enroll in the Pre-Service Firefighter program at the College to chase after and fulfill a lifelong goal.
"When I was younger, I always wanted to be a firefighter, so I enrolled to see if I would enjoy it and I really fell in love with the program within the first couple days of being here," Dimario said. "I’m happy I did it. Our instructors are all former firefighters who have first-hand experience. They are hard on us but I think that is a good thing because it helps us prepare for real-life emergency situations."
Dimario also believes the ability for St. Clair students to train and do labs in a real fire station will prepare them to join the workforce because they learn crucial ladder skills and how to use their applied knowledge when emergency situations arise.
"You can't learn how to climb up a ladder while you’re in a classroom, so learning how to climb up that ladder and properly put them up and then repeating and doing it each week gets us comfortable doing it and being efficient. It's very difficult to learn that from a textbook."
Anyone interested in the one-year Pre-Service Firefighter Training and Education Ontario College certificate program at St. Clair College can find more information at the link below.
- Brett Hedges