GNES fire teams with Loyalist College to train the next wave of firefighters

Loyalist College Pre-Service Firefighter and Education students begin their morning by running a lap around the GNES Napanee fire hall building. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Adam Prudhomme

Nothing written in a textbook can really prepare a firefighter for the split decisions needed on the frontlines of an emergency.

Running up a flight of stairs in full bunker gear or dragging a full grown adult out of a dangerous situation can’t really be taught in classroom-they need to be experienced. That’s why Greater Napanee Emergency Service’s fire department has teamed with Loyalist College to teach their Pre-Service Firefighter and Education program. Students make regular field trips to the Napanee fire hall where they take instruction from GNES’ fire prevention officer Kevin Duncan.

Loyalist College students are bussed into Napanee for hands on training with GNES’ fire department. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

Once there students are pushed to their physical limit, tasked with running an obstacle course that simulates the many strenuous challenges a firefighter may face when responding to a call.

During an early August lesson, students began the day with a lap around the Napanee fire hall. Then the real challenge began as students had to race against the clock as they ran up and down four flights of stairs, pulled a hose to the top of the staircase, forcefully move a Keiser metal bar with a sledge hammer, sprint through a zigzag course, carry kettle weights and then drag a 175 pound dummy several feet. The goal was not only to finish but also to get faster each time.

Jake Swartzenburg drags a 175 pound dummy while instructor Kevin Duncan looks on. Photo by Adam Prudhomme.

“Our Pre-Service Firefighter Education and Training Program is designed to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need to work effectively as part of a fire service team with other emergency responders to provide comprehensive service in emergency and non-emergency situations,” said Duncan. “We develop our programs in alignment with community and industry partners to ensure that our curriculum and teaching methods reflect employer needs. This gives our students a competitive advantage when they graduate.”

The program runs for a calendar year, starting in January. Graduates are qualified to work as firefighters, medical attendants, fire rangers and fire alarm technicians.

“Students witness real operating procedures, equipment and workplace environments fire-hand,” said Duncan. “There’s no better way to test your knowledge, build your confidence and prepare for your career than getting out in the field.”

Their grueling course work today ensures communities across Canada will be in good hands with the next generation of first responders.

For more on the program, visit

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