CORMAN PARK — A 40-acre and multi-phase fire training facility for the region’s firefighters being built some 15 minutes away from Saskatoon will also benefit Warman, Martensville and nearby towns.
The facility is a partnership between the cities of Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville, including their respective fire departments and other agencies involved in the planning and construction of the training facility.
Saskatoon Fire Department Chief Morgan Hackl said the facility will be used not only by the current fire crews of the respective cities but also by those recruits training to join the force.
“This is an exciting day for SFD. A regional training facility has been a vision for over three decades and is now being realized through a commitment to partnerships and community safety,” said Hackl.
“People who are looking to be employed with the [SFD]. The vision is that this facility will have the ability to train candidates [and] prospective employees for the City of Saskatoon and beyond.”
He said the facility is more than training by fire crews and paramedics for fire situations as it will also have buildings where other scenarios would be simulated like confined space rescues, technical and high angle rescues, hazardous materials training and railroad training.
“We will be able to have real props here and we can have our team specifically trained using those props. The interoperability as we talked about in emergency services, agencies working together like police, fire and others. We have strong relationships with them and they will be able to do their tactical training here. The opportunities are endless,” said Hackl.
“The [SFD], having 140 paramedics, will have medical training here as well. The classrooms will allow us to do tabletop scenarios which will be multisector-like emergency management situations. The rail incident on the highway between Saskatoon and Warman is an example of inter-operability of many agencies working together and this site will allow us to train for those types of things.”
Hackl and Saskatoon Mayor Charlie Clark said the project, to which $4.5 million was initially allocated by the Saskatoon City Council and additional funding from the Saskatchewan provincial government, will be done in phases.
“To have a purpose-built facility, a one-site location, there will be opportunities for efficiencies for sure. The other thing that is going to provide is when we move into phase two, which will be looking for partnerships and funding. It is an indoor arena that allows us to use the facility 365 days a year. When we’re able to move to that through partnerships, the benefit will be immense,” said Hackl.
“It will be immense for SFD, Warman, Martensville and other regional fire services. But the true benefit at that point will be for other partnerships across the province … The first phase will be completed in the spring of 2023 and beginning now we are having discussions about possible partners to move towards phase two, which the timeline is yet to be determined. But we hope that we can start moving towards phase two.”
Clark said the $4.5 million funding was allocated to the land acquisition. Elder Gilbert Kewistep from the Saulteaux/Nakaway Linguistic group in Central Saskatchewan led a pipe ceremony to bless the land and to start building the fire training facility.
“We are working with our partners in identifying the next stage in terms of the construction of the buildings. It will be done in a phased process so we won’t have the full facility in its final form up and running right away. It is going to take steps but we wanted to get the first steps underway,” said Clark.
“[It] gives us the ability to build out a governance model working with our regional partners and to build out a financial plan and to identify the best funding strategy going forward. But it is a priority that the city has identified having this regional partnership helps to move it along and we’re very excited.”
He added it took the project almost 30 years before it finally move forward sighting several factors including the decline of Saskatoon’s training facility and finding the right location that is big enough to house buildings and other places where fire crews can do drills in various scenarios like handling hazardous materials.
“That was a real impetus for us to get going on the planning for this but it does take on acquiring a piece of land. It took acquiring some early agreements with our partners on taking those first steps. We were able to leverage some of the recent infrastructure funding from the province to help initiate and get this step going. These are not cheap and there are many different things that we’re trying to do as a city and so now the conditions are coming together so that we can move ahead,” said Clark.
“It is a relationship building between the fire chiefs [Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville]. They all started to talk about this project. The need that we saw in Saskatoon, Warman and Martensville firefighters and fire services that they have identified. Just talking about making sure that as we plan for the future, we’re planning together instead of planning separately.”
Warman Mayor Gary Philipchuk said it was exciting to see the potential of the regional fire training facility to help firefighters today and those aspiring to join the force be updated on how to handle different scenarios.
“The synergy between regional partners would maximize the training opportunities and the protection of firefighters and residents in the area… It was mentioned about the milestone planning for the growth in coming together. I remember the first day when we met together as communities and it was almost competing for interests at that time, looking at everybody as territorial at that time. So we formed this planning group,” said Philipchuck.
“Here we are now with something a little bit more for all the partners — Saskatoon, Warman, Martensville and Corman Park — to be involved in. It has evolved to a point where we are sitting at a table looking at our interests, looking at what is the area going to look like with a real plan of what the whole land will be utilized and how different facilities will be utilized together.”