ST. PAUL – The St. Paul Fire Department recently recognized volunteer firefighters in the region who completed their NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) 1001 Level 2 Professional Firefighter Certification.
NFPA, established in 1896, is an international organization that sets the standards for various things related to fire safety and firefighting.
Henry Thomson, Deputy Chief at St. Paul Fire Department, explained that firefighters need to demonstrate 27 Level 1 skills, and 14 Level 2 skills, in addition to passing both Level 1 and Level 2 exams to acquire the NFPA 1001 Level 2 certification. He said accomplishing the feat requires a lot of commitment and time to demonstrate their qualifications.
“Our local 1001 training program takes about 18 months to complete. Students begin the process in January each year and complete the Level 1 training over the course of a year. Level 2 training begins the following January and wraps up in late May or early June,” explained Thomson.
“The need to have properly trained firefighters in our communities is definitely a necessity,” added Thomson, explaining that training can still take place without a certification because firefighters in the local region maintain their skills at regular training sessions. “But, having the ability to offer the firefighters the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and achieve internationally recognized certification offers them something tangible at the end of the many hours of studying and practicing to hone their craft.”
According to Thomson, NFPA Level 2 certification has been mandatory at the St. Paul Fire Department since 2016 for new recruits, and the opportunity for training is also offered to neighbouring regional fire departments in Elk Point, Ashmont, and Mallaig. He said the regional training approach makes the four fire departments stronger with greater collaboration in cases of emergency scenes.
Thomson said some of the firefighters recognized completed their NFPA Level 2 certifications in 2020 and some completed theirs in 2022. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a proper celebration to honour the 2020 batch was not held.
Thomson said he was happy to be able to recognize both groups of firefighters for their hard work – those who completed the training in 2020 and those who completed it more recently in June.
“These members are now certified as professional firefighters – and they truly are professionals – but they are volunteers.”
He said the firefighters gave up their free time to learn the skills and knowledge to become internationally-recognized firefighters. Voluntarily, St. Paul and area firefighters continue to serve their respective communities.
“I encourage members of the general public to personally thank these people as well if you see them out and about in your community,” he said.
Faces of the firefighters
Bryce Osinchuk and Joshua Bateman from Elk Point Fire Department were among the firefighters recognized. Osinchuk said when he was in high school, he fell in love with the work being done at the fire department. Bateman said he wanted to serve and be involved with his community outside of his church role in Elk Point.
Bateman is a senior pastor at Elk Point Baptist Church and said the process of acquiring his NFPA Level 2 certification was an amazing experience, allowing firefighters from different regional departments to get to know and work with each other.
“We spend a lot of time in our own area, and just kind of working with our own guys,” Bateman said. “It's nice to get some of that cooperation where we get to know each other and get familiar with how each other works and learn different skills from each other – it’s really exciting.”
Osinchuk, an area farmer, said he was studying Agriculture at Lakeland College in Vermillion while doing his NFPA Level 2 training. He agreed with Bateman, stating, “I felt really good to go and work with some other firefighters and get some other perspective on how things work and also to learn more.”
Osinchuk completed his NFPA Level 2 in 2022 and Bateman completed his back in 2020.
The St. Paul Fire Department had four firefighters recognized for completing their NFPA Level 2. Among them is Billy Kwana and Martin Belanger who completed their NFPA Level 2 in 2022. Kwana is a student, a support worker with St. Paul Abilities Network, and a janitor for Smile Quest Dental.
Kwana said getting through the past couple of years has been rough, so upon completing his certification, he felt excited and proud of himself. Kwana moved to St. Paul in 2015, and when asked what prompted him to volunteer as a firefighter, he said, “I found St. Paul Fire Department as a way for me to give back to the community.”
Since most firefighters within the Lakeland region are mostly volunteers. Lakeland Today asked Belanger what his inspiration was to step forward and volunteer as a firefighter.
“We’re doing it because we like doing it. We’re not coming here for a pay cheque,” said Belanger.
“We’re a big family here and everybody’s just got everybody’s back,” he said, explaining trust is a big factor in firefighting due to the dangerous nature of the job. Outside of his role as a firefighter, Belanger works for the public works department at the Town of St. Paul, and also works at Kal Tire.
The other two St. Paul Fire Department volunteer firefighters recognized were Patrick Bergen and Chris Boorse, who completed their NFPA Level 2 in 2020. Bergen, a mortgage broker by trade, said receiving recognition was an excellent feeling because of the hard work and time firefighters commit to complete their training.
“But it’s not the reason we’re here – I guess it’s a good accolade to have but that’s it,” said Bergen. “We’re here to give back to the community and provide for those that may or may not be able to take care of themselves in certain situations.”
For Bergen, being a firefighter is a commitment both for himself and his family, and he said his family has been very understanding.
“We obviously put our family first to make sure they’re taken care of and use whatever spare time we do have to be able to drop everything and go.”
When asked how Boorse felt with the recognition, he said, “I’m not here for the recognition. I’m just here to help with the community.”
Boorse has been working as a volunteer firefighter for about 30 years between Ashmont and St. Paul. His father helped found the Ashmont Fire Department and Boorse discovered he too enjoyed being a firefighter.
“We have a really good group of guys and gals on the department, and everyone works well together,” said Boorse. “I can see a lot of these people going to be more than just a firefighter – maybe up to Lieutenant Captain one day, but they’re doing good.”
NFPA Level 2 Firefighters 2020 and 2022
Some firefighters were unable to attend the celebration, below is the full list of firefighters who completed their NFPA Level 2 on 2020 and 2022.
2020: Patrick Bergen and Chris Boorse from the St. Paul Fire Department. Kent Bernard, Joshua Bateman, Devin Rewoldt (since retired), and Aaron Enns (since retired) from the Elk Point Fire Department. Allen Preston, Ryan Galas, Dillon Page, and Jeff Grant from the Ashmont Fire Department.
2022: Martin Belanger and Billy Kwana from the St. Paul Fire Department. Bryce Osinchuk from the Elk Point Fire Department.