Challenges of rural firefighting focus of Marine Institute research
Monday, January 11, 2021

The Fisheries and Marine Institute (MI) of Memorial University is collaborating with the provincial fire commissioner’s office to examine firefighting strategies and equipment used in rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The two-year research project is expected to provide solutions to fire halls in rural areas. It will address declining populations and make recommendations on new firefighting methods to limit communities’ risk by effectively managing human resources and equipment.

Protecting people and property

Dr. Elizabeth Sanli, a researcher with MI’s Ocean Safety Research Unit and the project lead, says many communities in Newfoundland and Labrador have fire departments that rely on volunteers who are changing in both age and numbers.Dr Elizabeth Sanli

“With these demographic challenges comes the need to investigate safe, efficient and effective methods of firefighting for our geographically dispersed population,” Dr. Sanli said. “Through our work, we hope to inform communities of how they can best use equipment to protect their people and property.”

Steve Crocker, provincial minister of Justice and Public Safety, says his department is committed to working with regional service boards, municipalities and local service districts to strengthen the level of fire services provided to communities.

“The research that will be conducted by the Marine Institute will help all of us plan for what fire protection in our smaller rural communities will look like in the future,” said Minister Crocker. “With our changing demographics, this research will ensure an effective, co-ordinated fire response to the benefit of all residents.”

The research team includes Derek Simmons, director of fire services and fire commissioner of fire emergency services for the Department of Justice and Public Safety; Cody Garlie, interim director of MI’s Offshore Safety and Survival Centre (OSSC); and Noah Pardy, a work-term student from Memorial’s School of Human Kinetics and Recreation.Dr Elizabeth Sanl1-Fire 2-350PX

OSSC is equipped with firefighter training and testing facilities for the marine and offshore petroleum industries.

Research driven

The project will have three phases.

Phase one focuses on reviewing journal articles, research by firefighting organizations and other relevant literature to identify key challenges in providing firefighting services in rural populations internationally.

Researchers will also examine community risk reduction programs employed internationally, especially those relevant to coastal and Northern regions with smaller and aging firefighter populations.

Phase two of the project involves a proof-of-concept and primary research to evaluate new equipment and strategies identified in the first phase.

Researchers will examine how the number of firefighting personnel, building construction type and weather factor into the effectiveness of each strategy.

Researchers will publish their findings and make recommendations to communities in phase three.

Multiple funders

The project is funded with a $54,500 grant from the International Grenfell Association (IGA) and contributions from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro at $10,000 each.

The IGA responds to the needs of coastal communities in northern Newfoundland and Labrador in the areas of health care, education, social welfare, recreation and general lifestyle. IGA offers funding for community projects and initiatives that serve to enhance the general well-being of the residents of these regions.

IBC is the national industry association representing Canada’s private home, auto and business insurers.

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro provides electrical power to more 200 communities in the province.