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Sanibel, Iona-McGregor fire crews participate in training
August 13, 2019

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Members of the Sanibel Fire and Rescue District and the Iona-McGregor Fire District recently took part in cross-training on their apparatus and equipment in preparation for providing mutual aid.

Last week, the crew shifts from Sanibel's Station 171 and Iona-McGregor's Station 72 met on the Sanibel Causeway on three mornings for a few hours each day to learn about each others' trucks, gear and procedures. It also provided a chance for new members and crew leaders to meet one another.

"We try to meet with the agencies that are going to be responding to our district if we have a major incident, like a fire," Division Chief of Training Capt. Tim Barrett, of the Sanibel district, said.

"We try to meet with them at least once a year," he added.

Barrett explained that if there is an incident call on the island's east end, Station 72 is located on McGregor Boulevard and usually arrives quicker as backup than crews at Sanibel's west end station, Station 172. Because of traffic and distance, it has taken 30-35 minutes for Station 172 to arrive.

"There has been times when they (Station 72) have been there a few minutes after our first truck has gotten there," Barrett said of Iona-McGregor's response times, pointing out the straight open road.

Division Chief of Operations Khalid Aquil, of the Iona-McGregor district, echoed that.

"Sanibel has quite a bit of distance between their stations. If they have a fire on that side of the island, the second closest truck is Station 72," he said. "It's imperative having that working relationship."

"We are the second crew to show up," Aquil added.

The cross-training involved 10 Sanibel staffers and 18 from Iona-McGregor.

"We just focused on the engines or the trucks that are going to be responding," Barrett said.

Both districts recently got new trucks - Sanibel last year and Iona-McGregor a few months ago.

"Both of those trucks are brand new. It's like buying a new car," Aquil said. "You've got brand new apparatus. The technology with the trucks is different, and the compartments, the space."

"We got to look at their stuff," Barrett added. "They got to look at our stuff."

He cited the water hoses on the two trucks as one example.

"The hose lays on their truck are a little different than ours," Barrett said, adding that the Iona-McGregor crews may have to grab one of the hoses off of Sanibel's truck during a call.

"They need to know how it deploys, what kind of nozzles we have on it. Basically, how to operate it," he said. "We looked at the way the pumps are different - so they could figure it out, as well as we could run the pump on their truck."

The cross-training helps to familiarize the crews with one another, too.

"We've also had quite a few changes in personnel with promotions and stuff, so we have to make sure the newer people get to know everybody," Aquil said.

Barrett echoed that.

"Now Sanibel's captain knows by face who's coming over with his crew. It's not just some random guy coming over," he said. "It's information sharing, it's team building."

It also affords the districts an opportunity to compare notes on procedures and protocols.

"Since we're a small department, our tactics are very aggressive. Their tactics are a little different because they have five stations," Barrett said, explaining that the information sharing gets everyone on the same page. "These guys are going to be coming over and helping us, so we need to have seamless coordination to get the objectives taken care of as quickly as possible."

Aquil agreed.

"We're responding to calls to each other," he said. "There's some things you can't assume. That does require training every now and then."

Barrett added that people on Sanibel may see an Iona-McGregor or Captiva fire truck at a call.

"Just know they've been trained to a similar level and it just means we're doing something and we just want to have the resources available in case something happens," he said.

"Our obligation to the citizens is pretty much the same," Aquil added. "It doesn't matter whose boundaries it is."

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