St. Marys and Zorra fire departments train together to build partnership; Mutural-aid agreement prompted joint training between the two departments
As part of an ongoing mutual-aid agreement between the St. Marys and Zorra fire departments, firefighters from both communities are benefiting from joint training exercises.

Earlier this month, 28 members from St. Marys and Zorra's Uniondale station participated in pumper relay and tanker shuttle training. "There's a couple benefits (to training with Zorra)," St. Marys fire Chief Richard Anderson said. "One, the firefighters get to meet the other firefighters, so they start to bond and form that working relationship. Each department will also get to showcase the equipment that they have. We have slightly different equipment from them and different fittings and such, so we'll compare all the equipment and then we'll set an exercise (using that equipment) in place ... and we have our firefighters conduct the training."

During the training exercise earlier this month, for example, firefighters from both departments had the opportunity to use a piece of equipment from the St. Mary's department known as a holly tube water-transfer pipe, which allows water to be rapidly pumped from one portable reservoir to another.

At the scene of rural fires where access might be limited and firefighters need to rely on tanker trucks, Anderson said having a second reservoir provides a water flow that's uninterrupted by the tanker trucks coming and going.

"They had never seen that before and we said, 'Well this is how we would use it in the tanker shuttle training,'" Anderson said. "They were very impressed with that piece of equipment and now they're considering purchasing something like that."
Similarly, the two departments plan on conducting joint water-rescue and ice water-rescue training later this year.

"I went down to visit their station and they have a piece of equipment, and I said, 'What is that?' They showed me and I was like, 'Oh my lord, this is something we need to get as well.' " Beyond firefighters being able to train with and familiarize themselves with new equipment, the ongoing joint training also allows firefighters to learn to work together as a team.

"Having a mutual understanding of how each department sets up on scene and deploys resources in addition to available equipment and operational practices, prior to the emergency occurring, prepares all firefighters to work safer and more efficiently when called upon by the community," Zorra fire Chief Deanna Kirwin said in a press release.

The mutual-aid agreement - inked in 2018 - allows the fire departments to request and received help from the neighbouring fire department when needed. When participating in mutual aid, the first obligation is still to respond to emergencies in their own municipality or jurisdiction. When firefighters and trucks are available, however, a department can request help from the partner, whether that's for additional tanker trucks, fire crews or anything else that could be needed.

Since St. Marys sits across the Perth-Oxford county border from Zorra, Anderson said the two departments have the ability to quickly respond to and help one another with rural fires and emergencies, including those at the Wildwood reservoir, which is split between both counties.


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