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Olds approves lease of propane-powered fire training device

The plan is to buy demo unit outright after two years

OLDS — Council has approved a plan to continue leasing a piece of fire-training equipment with the intent of buying it out at the end of a two-year term.

The decision was passed unanimously during council’s Aug. 24 meeting.

A report to council pegs the total cost at $34,036, including the $8,500 buyout in 2022.

The portable propane-powered fire trainer enables crews to practise fighting fires in different places.

It includes interchangeble components so that firefighters can stage a variety of different fire scenarios.

Purchase of the fire training equipment was previously approved by council as part of $60,000 worth of training facility upgrades.

The fire department obtained the equipment at no charge as a demo with the understanding it would eventually be purchased outright.

Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

In order to save money, purchase of the trainer was moved to the 2021 capital budget under the assumption the fire department could continue using it as a demo.

However, since then, demand for the equipment has increased. The company indicated it wanted the demo unit back so it could sell it to a department in Ontario.

Fire Chief Justin Andrew said the concern is if the Olds Fire Department doesn’t have this device, it could lose accreditation with the province.

That would mean local firefighters would have to train elsewhere – Red Deer would be the closest place – and the town would lose the opportunity to have firefighters from other departments train in Olds.

“So that is the potential. The chance of us getting this one back as a demo or being extended at a demo price, it’s not impossible, but it’s very slim. They don’t build these devices to float around very often,” Andrew said.

He said it would likely cost at least $64,000 to buy a new one, according to last year’s pricing.

Councillors Mary Anne Overwater, Mary Jane Harper, Heather Ryan and Debbie Bennett supported a recommendation to lease the equipment and buy it out after two years.

They echoed Andrew’s concern about potentially losing the chance to train local firefighters and out-of-town crews in Olds.

“The provincial government accreditation, once you have it, it would be, I think just poor management if we didn’t approve this, so I’m very happy to support this,” Bennett said.

Harper wondered what the life cycle of the equipment is.

Andrew wasn’t sure; he guessed at least 10 to 15 years.

He predicted the town would be able to extend its life pretty easily because he noted that it’s mostly made of aluminum and there are many tradespeople in Olds who could likely fix it.

“There are a lot of functioning components that could be replaced piece by piece,” Andrew said. “I’d like to think that we could see a pretty long lifespan on it for sure.”