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Abbotsford mayor and councillors feel the heat – Fire Ops 101

Mayor Bruce Banman and several members of council were feeling some heat on Wednesday, but it wasn't political. It was the temperature inside their firefighting turnout gear that had them sweating.

The Abbotsford Fire Rescue Service put Banman and Couns. Les Barkman, Henry Braun, Moe Gill and Patricia Ross through firefighter training.

Soon Banman found himself in a tight spot – not facing irate taxpayers, but literally stuck.

He was carrying a fire hose into a building filled with simulated smoke, wearing breathing apparatus, and following a lead firefighter into the blankness. Everything was going fine, until he started to get low on oxygen.

"The mayor's a bit of a pig on air," Banman conceded.

He put the hose down, and they started back, following the hose to the entrance. Then he became stuck, wedged into a narrow space under a set of stairs.

"Apparently, the guy ahead of me was thinner than me," he allowed.

Many of the firefighters on duty that day were called out to a major barn fire on Wells Line Road, and Chief Don Beer had to don his gear and assist Banman.

The mayor said he felt pretty isolated in that dark building. He called it a sobering experience, and a taste of the "stark reality of what these guys go through every day."

He and Gill appeared to enjoy the auto extrication exercises, smashing glass and cutting windshields, using hydraulic tools to bend a car frame, and cutting through a car's hood.

"There's a lot to learn about this stuff," he said.

Gill who has been on council since 1996, said it was the first time he had done so much physical work during an orientation event.

"Even for me, this is pretty heavy work," he said.

In the course, called Fire Ops 101, the politicians learned how to use breathing apparatus, search for a fire victim, extricate a patient from a motor vehicle accident and perform defibrillation on a cardiac patient. It was conducted at the AFRS training facility on Riverside Road.

Chief Don Beer said the day was designed to be educational, and had little impact on his budget thanks to Fire Fighter Union Local 2864 helping to host the event.

"I wanted councillors to understand what a firefighter goes through," Beer said.

"They did fabulous – they got nice and sweaty."

Banman said he has spent time on a garbage truck, snow plow, road patching crew, and with other city workers.

"It's very worthwhile for council to learn all the jobs the city workers do," he said. "It's all part of 'how does that city operate?'"

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