The Carlyle Fire Department is in need of a new fire hall to serve the growing town, and they're also looking to build a structure where its members can train and practice to keep people safe.
Chief Trent Lee, who is also the president of the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs, said a new fire hall would give them enough space to store their fire truck and all of their equipment. They are currently using the old Ministry of Highways and Infrastructure building on Seventh Street West.
“Vehicles are in there bumper-to-bumper,” said Lee. “We actually have some stuff stored outside, and some stuff's not even at the hall.”
The building has one small office suitable for one person.
“When we have meetings and practices, we have to pull vehicles out, and stack some chairs on the garage floor, and have our training that way,” said Lee.
A new training facility would allow the firefighters to enhance their skills. Lee said it would include a tower.
“We are lacking in the facilities for training, so we want to have what we classify as a fire tower, where we can train for confined space rescue, rope rescue and high angle rescue,” said Lee. “We can have live fire training in there.”
When the fire department isn't in the building, it could be rented out to anybody, including people in the oil patch who need safety training.
“You could have derrick rescue training off of this tower that we want to build,” said Lee.
Other fire departments in the region could use the training facility for their own needs, he said.
If Carlyle's firefighters want to tackle live fire training, it can take them one or two years to secure an old house in the country that they can use. Several new firefighters haven't had that training opportunity.
“Without that kind of training, you're just not prepared to go into a burning structure once the need arises,” said Lee. “You can have all the book training in the world, but if you don't have any real life experience, when the time comes to put all that knowledge to use, a lot of people back down. They're not prepared for it.”
Other communities in Saskatchewan are struggling with the similar facility issues as Carlyle, he said.
Lee said he doesn't want to ask people for money, so the fire department has decided to host a fundraising fun golf tournament to generate funds for the fire hall. The first two editions of the tournament generated about $25,000 each.
This year's tournament will be Sunday, August 17 at the Carlyle Golf Course.
Lee said the total cost of the fire hall and the training area would be about $900,000. The fire hall itself would cost about $600,000.
“I would even start building the fire hall as we get enough money, just to put the frame up,” said Lee. “Once people see that the frame is up, and we're making some progress, maybe we'll get some support, and help people understand that we are working towards a viable goal.”
The firefighters are excited about the possibility of the buildings. They love the thought of having a new fire hall that's clean and that they can be proud of. And they're excited about the possibility of having excellent training courses available to them in Carlyle.
Lee predicted that Carlyle might be able to host one of the provincial firefighter training schools, which would see hundreds of firefighters from across the province come to the town to receive training from certified instructors.
Carlyle has about 16 firefighters, and a little more than half will show up every time they get a call, Lee said. It's a paid on-call department, so the members usually have full-time jobs.
“We're getting dangerously low on manpower, and if we lose a few more firefighters, it's going to get to the point where it's not going to be a viable department, and the community will have to look at putting some full-time members in,” said Lee.
Their call volume is increasing, too. They had nearly 80 calls for service last year, and there were weeks in which they had calls back-to-back days.
Lee is hopeful that once they have the proper facilities in place, it will be easier to recruit new firefighters to the department.