Skip to content

Training facility a first in Barrie

Until now, Barrie firefighters travelled to the Greater Toronto Area or Gravenhurst for hands-on, live fire training. Not anymore, thanks to the Simcoe County Home Builders' Association (SCHBA)
Barrie Fire and Emergency Services Chief Training Officer Tony Weir stands in front of the build and burn house. Robin MacLennan/BarrieToday

Until now,  Barrie firefighters travelled to the Greater Toronto Area or Gravenhurst for hands-on, live fire training.

Not anymore, thanks to the Simcoe County Home Builders' Association. 

Dozens of builders and volunteers, including several from Habitat for Humanity Huronia, donated their time and expertise to build a house on the weekend, completing a 750-foot bungalow in just about five hours. Firefighters from Barrie and Innisfil will use the house for training.

"It will help us with everything from search and rescue to fire attack, heat and smoke, incident command, and communication to laddering the building, ventilating . . . any skills that we need," said Tony Weir, chief of training at Barrie Fire and Emergency Services.

Also, this house was built especially for fire training, with double drywall throughout and movable walls to change the interior and make training more challenging.

It is expected to last at least five years, with smaller fires set inside in burn barrels for specific training sessions. Because there is a double layer of drywall throughout the house, it will be easier and more cost effective to replace burned walls without compromising the structure.

"Traditionally, our training includes a lot of lectures and videos . . . and now we can actually run a full blown scenario, practice in real time," said Weir.

The burn house also allows full crews to train together - an important factor.

"We have a heritage and its in our DNA to give back to the community that we live and work in," said Bob Schickedanz, president of the Simcoe County Home Builders' Association.

Along with community fundraising, the Association completes a build every four years.

"When we were approached by Tony Weir . . . about this build and burn project it was intriguing to us because it was a little bit different than the builds we have done in the past.

"We were excited to be able to do something that could something that helps the community provide a training facility for first responders  . . . and hopefully save lives out there in the community."

The SCHBA represents builders, renovators, contractors, suppliers and professionals that support the building profession across the region.

Schickendanz says it didn't take much convincing to get volunteers onboard for the build and burn project.

"It's pretty incredible to get to this point from just two concrete blocks on the ground this morning," he said, as he watched the crew adding the last piece of siding to the house.

"It takes a lot of people putting their shoulders to the wheel."




Reader Feedback

Robin MacLennan

About the Author: Robin MacLennan

Robin MacLennan has been a reporter, photographer and editor for the daily media in Barrie, across Simcoe County and Toronto for many years. She is a proud member of the Barrie community.
Read more