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Firefighter Talk with Kevin Royle
Kevin Royle, a 14 year veteran with Edmonton Fire Rescue Services, is a First Class Firefighter, Firefighter Medical Responder, Apparatus operator, and Fire Investigator.
Kevin founded Firefighter Aid Ukraine in 2014 and remains the project director. Firefighter Aid Ukraine has delivered over 209 tons of aid to first responders and hospitals to Ukraine. The organization has also sent or helped to send equipment such as fire trucks, medical supplies, firefighting rescue equipment, and PPE to other countries such as Lebanon, Chile, Paraguay, Syria, Mexico, the Philippines, India, and Cuba. They have continued working in Ukraine throughout the conflict.
Kevin was the recipient of the Hetman Award for his work in Ukraine, and was recently appointed to the Premier’s AdvisoryTask force on Ukraine. Kevin has a beautiful wife and is the father of two young children. When not working or volunteering, Kevin enjoys skiing and travelling the world.
Established in 2014, FAU has spent nearly a decade working with the State Emergency Services and volunteer brigades in Ukraine, building strong relationships in Kyiv, Lviv, Uzhgorod, Ivano-Frankivsk, Ternopil, Odessa, Chernivstsi, Dnipro, Cherkasy, Mykolaiv, and Nikopol, and to date has delivered over 140 tons of life rescue and health care aid.
When the conflict started, FAU used their trusted network to focus on the immediate delivery of critical aid to Ukraine. In a week, the organization accomplished what typically takes well over a year collecting 14 tones of critically needed life rescue equipment, PPE, and medical supplies, chartered a cargo plane, and departed from the Edmonton International Airport on March 10th. In less than 24hrs of landing in Europe, FAU and AUCC personally delivered two-semi trucks full of equipment into Ukraine and handed them off to our contacts in the State Emergency Services. Within days of that equipment being provided, it was on the front lines of the war and making international news, as seen on CNN.
FAU’s will continue to collect critical aid and ship it to the front lines and communities affected by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Firefighters carry out firefighting and fire prevention activities, and assist in other emergencies. They are employed by municipal, provincial and federal governments and by large industrial establishments that have internal firefighting services. Apprentices are also included in this unit group.
- Respond to fire alarms and other calls for assistance, such as automobile and industrial accidents, bomb threats and other emergencies
- Rescue victims from burning buildings and accident sites
- Control and extinguish fires using manual and power equipment, such as axes, water hoses, aerial ladders and hydraulic equipment and various firefighting chemicals
- Administer first aid and other assistance
- Ensure proper operation and maintenance of firefighting equipment
- Prepare written reports on fire incidents
- Inform and educate the public on fire prevention
- Train to maintain high level of physical fitness
- Assist the public, the police and emergency organizations during times of major disasters
- May participate as members of a trauma or emergency response team and provide paramedical aid to accident victims or ill persons
- May supervise and coordinate the work of other firefighters
- May conduct building inspections to ensure compliance with fire code.
This is what you typically need for the job:
- Completion of secondary school is usually required.
- Completion of a college program in fire protection technology, fire science or a related field may be required.
- Firefighting and emergency medical care training courses are provided and vary in length depending on the requirements of different fire departments or services.
- An apprenticeship training program for firefighters and voluntary trade certification is available in New Brunswick.
- Experience as a volunteer firefighter may be an advantage.
- Physical agility, strength, fitness and vision requirements must be met.
- Several years of experience are required for senior firefighters, such as lieutenants and captains.
Check out our Career Crisis Interview Series:
Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Is there a friendly rivalry with police officers? Yeah.
You know, there’s a you know, I would call it a sibling rivalry maybe.
Yeah, definitely, definitely there is.
You know. It’s it’s really healthy.
You know, the police and EMS, there’s a mutual respect, but there’s also there’s a lot of chirping going on between the 3 services.
it’s fun, let’s put it that way. It’s a lot of fun.
The Job Talk Podcast shares stories from people who are passionate and love what they do in their careers.
Through conversation, we explore their careers, past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
We are putting together a Career Crisis Ultimate Interview series.
We are asking experts to give their best advice and guidance around work anxiety, career pressures, career goal setting, and ultimately career transformation.
To learn more about this special interview series and get notified when it’s available, please visit our web page at thejobtalk.com/help Today’s guest is Kevin Royle.
Here’s our Job Talk with a Firefighter.
Kevin, you becoming a firefighter? Did that fulfill a childhood dream? Nope.
No. It was what it was.
I was actually on a completely different career path, blew all my money on a different education and, you know, just life changes.
You know, I started a family and realized that the path that was going down wasn’t necessarily condusive to do to start a family.
So I started looking around and then I met guys that were on the department and I had friends that were going through the process and actually had a boxing coach who had always told me, Hey, you need to look at this as a career.
And once I made that decision to start a family and look at a different career path was a pretty easy choice, just based on what I wanted to do, you know, serving communities and just being clear, something that I felt was, I guess, worthy.
What career path were you looking at when you were trying to decide? I was involved in restaurant and hotel management, and I was in the process of starting my own place.
And then I realized, you know, what this probably isn’t the best best with the best occupations for wanting to have a family, too.
What was your boxing career like? How how did you do? You know, I boxed like 14 years, I think from a just a young guy all the way up into my early, the more in my late twenties, it was good.
I wrote a book for the province of Alberta and it had some international competitions.
I never went pro. I never had the desire to go pro.
I just like the competition.
So I was able to travel, travel around a lot of places and it actually moved in to MMA a bit So I moved into like an MMA coaching and as an agent as well.
I worked so oh wow.
Okay, so how old were you when you decided to pursue firefighting and apply for that? I was 28 when I decided that I was going to make the jump and to try to to try to support service.
28 years old.
Do you think that’s about the median age or is that older for people getting into firefighting? No, not really.
You know, there’s some guys that you don’t have that childhood dream.
They start start right out of high school.
I think most departments look to look for some life experience and some you know, you have to go through prerequisites or whatever department you’re trying to join.
I think there’s there’s guys as young as 21, you know, even younger.
And then there’s there’s guys that we have some recent recruits that are in the forties now that are just getting onto the floor Yeah.
Okay, so let’s talk about the process of becoming a firefighter.
Mm hmm. How do you apply? And then let’s get into what the training’s like, right? Well, I guess one of the biggest things to understand is that there’s so many different types of departments throughout Canada and the prerequisite prerequisites vary from province to province, community, community, county, county.
So we have volunteer departments that are pure volunteer.
We have volunteer on call departments where the volunteer firefighters are paid when they’re actually are an event.
And then they usually have a paid chief, deputy chief and maybe some other illustrative people that are paid with an annual salary and have your professional fire services.
So and then within professional fire services you also have integrated services.
So for instance, my department, Edmonton is only fire.
We have some medical training, but a community like in St. Albert has an integrated service.
So they also manage the ambulances in the community.
So those are things to keep in mind whenever you’re looking to apply for to a fire service.
I don’t know if you need to be a paramedic to get on to an integrated service, or at least an EMT, but a department like a like Edmonton, you don’t need to be a paramedic where you might be, but they do have a minimum minimum level of medical training that you have to acquire, and those can change from year to year with the recruitment process.
What was your favorite part of training? There’s so many things that are I mean, I’m a hands on guy, so I like working with tools, you know, I like learning all the time.
So I love learning about the medical medical component of our job.
I know there’s nothing better than getting on a hose and getting to do live fire evolutions, but, you know, there’s just the camaraderie.
Build the troop mates To me, that’s pretty awesome as well.
So I mean, I spent some time in the military previous to my it’s my whole career with the fire service.
So, you know, it’s reminiscent of that too little basic training and doing your your, you know, your QL trainings and stuff like that.
So I enjoy that. I enjoy training, period.
So do they.
When you’re going through training to be a firefighter, are they covering everything? Like how is the driving side of things? Do they they run you through a course when you’re driving the truck? Yeah, well, I guess another could understand that there’s basically your firefighting education is covered by NFPA National Fire Protection Association, and you develop these courses over time.
You’re kind of ones are you’re basically you’re your ticket or your diploma to fight fire as a structural firefighter.
Then you start getting different courses for driving and apparatus operation.
There’s different types of apparatus operation.
There’s different courses that allow you to become a trainer to teach NFPA courses.
So it’s all career progression.
And again, depending on the community that you’re in, they’ll have different, I guess, different portfolios or different job titles or job descriptions within the service.
Canadian services tend to have well-rounded firefighters that don’t just don’t just drive or don’t just get on a nozzle.
Whereas you get into the United States and a lot of those firefighters will spend a career or a large portion of career just driving or just on the nozzle.
And it’s almost like become an engineer or an operator.
It’s kind of complete change or a complete promotion or something they call it.
Whereas in my service and most of the services in in Canada and for special services you spend a short period time blocks of shifts as a driver within a block of shifts as a firefighter medical attendant.
So yeah how how did you find the theory side? You don’t go in cold air with no knowledge typically.
So again, I’m the refer to everything because that’s what I’m familiar with.
You know, I had to have at the time was EMR, an emergency medical responder that was governed by the Alberta College of Paramedics.
That’s since changed.
It’s now a different medical background training that you have to have.
So you go in and you’ve you’ve done this course.
And so you have a basic knowledge of anatomy and pharmacology and, you know, just your best practices.
And you come in and then you’re trained to the Edmonton standards.
And again, that’s going to change community to community. So but again, Edmonton we, they actually provided us with a NFP101s and once they had their own training college, which is not very common, I don’t believe for Canada.
So a lot of departments were required to go to a fire college like Vermilion or something like that, I think Hinton has a college now.
So you can go to these places that your firefighter 1001s because the community doesn’t have the ability to train the firefighters and certify the firefighters.
So with Edmonton we had a background, but then we were also provided a lot of training.
And how long is the training? And then let’s talk about once you graduate entering, being a firefighter.
Yeah, again, I’m not sure the duration of the fire colleges.
These are programs that vary in length depending on the length of days and stuff like that.
You could also get your 1001s by going through a volunteer department and doing almost like a distance learning or spending some time with and training with the classes and stuff like that.
And the department to acquire your 1001s in Edmonton.
It took, I think once you’ve done all your prerequisites.
So you’re, you’re a few weeks in during your medical training, at the very least, you’re then required to go through driving tests and driving exams, and then you’re training with Edmonton a few months to get your 1001s training, and that’s two months before you hit the floor as a probational firefighter.
And then there’s continuous on the job training and continuous development.
For instance, you don’t start driving an apparatus until minimum two years.
And then there’s again several day training program on just the driving and then several days on the pump, panel operations for the operations on the the engineering side of things.
Again, sorry to interrupt you there.
You talked about you’re continuing to learn throughout your career as a firefighter.
Do you specialize into different roles as a firefighter? You can go out within Edmonton and most large municipalities will have to deal with hazmat training, tactical rescue, rescue triangle, specialized water rescue, the House Investigations, Prevention.
Those are the kind of the main specialties within the department.
So you can.
Have you specialized in any of these as well? Yeah, I specialized in investigations, so I received my level eight because officer training and again that continuous training you’re learning about of mapping or accelerants, there’s a lot of different aspects of of the investigation process and you just continue new new information science and of your theory becomes available.
So you’re always learning new things a lot.
But just as you did in the past about training or the technical rescue, new equipment comes available or new ideas.
When you’re not on an emergency call.
What are you guys doing when you’re not actually on at a car accident scene or of a fire? Contrary to popular belief we’re not, just sleep or working out the we’re constantly training.
Well, for instance, right now we’re doing mental health training right now.
I was just doing that last night, but we’re we have a lot of a lot of training that we’re constantly always upgrading or maintaining our proficiency with CPR or new practices in trauma, rescue.
Just last year, we rolled out a new deadly bleed program to help control, you know, that they bleep try to use a tourniquet and kinesthetic gauses and stuff like that that have become available to us and onto our scope.
So we’re constantly, constantly learning new techniques on things.
Is there a friendly rivalry with police officers? Yeah.
You know, there’s a you know, I would call it a sibling rivalry maybe.
Yeah, definitely, definitely there is.
Can you talk about some of the experiences you’ve had with with police? You know. It’s it’s really healthy.
You know, the police and EMS, there’s a mutual respect, but there’s also how you well, there’s a lot of chirping going on between the 3 services.
And I think we’re the.
How do you say.
Yeah, you know, if it’s fun, let’s put it that way.
It’s it’s a lot of fun.
My my brother in law is a police officer.
So I’ve I’ve heard his side of things.
It sounds like it can get quite heated in corporate challenge when you guys are competing in sports against them.
Yeah I can definitely can.
So obviously if you’re a firefighter it’s it’s kind of like a family situation.
Are you assigned to a fire station and that becomes your family.
You guys are living there when you’re on call.
And again, municipalities or communities.
has very different situations.
But yeah, we have, what, 30 stations in Edmonton? Usually they’re anywhere between two and five years at a fire hall or you know, but as attrition or as people retire, as people are promoted, there is a constant reshuffling of your of your staff.
So you can get down to different hall based on the operational needs of the department, right.
So yeah, you’re typically at a hall for a few years and you develop close bonds with the guys who work with the need.
You live within that hall and you have responsibilities that each you know, you rely on each one of your your crew to talk with them.
But yeah, definitely.
How do you find the shift work and can you tell us what your schedule is like? Yeah, as a young guy, it was fine.
As I get older, I find it just, you know, you don’t bounce back from rough night as easy as you do when you’re in your you’re 30s or 20s. But we in Edmonton again, it’s our our schedule Calgary is different, for instance, but we work two ten hour days.
and we were two 14 hour nights we get two days off and then we go back to two 10 hour days, two 14 hour nights, and then we get six off.
So it’s a little equates to more than a 40 hour workweek.
I could imagine if you have a family that that could get a little tricky.
Pros and cons, you know, while I’m afforded a lot of time with my family.
So, yeah, you can end up with, you know, missing some, you know, family events or special holidays or but I also get afforded a lot of time to spend with them.
So what do you like best about being a firefighter? Community involvement in service.
Community service has always been something that I’ve always enjoyed.
That’s why when the military that’s why I focus a lot on volunteer work.
But yeah, it’s it’s definitely the community service and then also some of those other inducements and it’s a very secure job.
The pension is something that you can’t deny being an abuse of that, you know, that that attracts people, but also the time I get with my family.
So it’s for me, it’s a great occupation, a good balance of your professional life, your personal life. And then, you know what? I’m not going to be rich off firefighting, but we were rich in other ways.
Is there anything that you wish you knew before you joined the fire department? Right.
And, you. Know, the only thing I wish is I would have done it sooner.
I wish I would have just I wish I would have done it in my in my life.
That’s really the only thing I wish about my career.
And do you have any advice that you could give to somebody that is just applying to go through the process? Yeah, you know what? Like every community is different.
You know, you got to make the decision, you know, are you willing to relocate? Are you do you want to be a paramedic and work in an integrated department? Do you are you happy being a volunteer firefighter paid on call so you can pursue your your trade or your your degree or something like that or your your profession in other area.
Again, that’s equally just as fulfilling in a lot of ways as professional firefighting.
But I guess the biggest piece of advice would be go to your communities website, find out what the prerequisites are, because those are going to differ.
Go to that website kind of with what you need to do and usually it’s spelled out very, very clear.
And the other thing is start knocking on the doors of the fire halls.
Those are those are the best guys to give you the advice on, you know, what the climate’s like within the department right now and know what the recruitment process is.
You know, you might get lucky and meet a guy that the rookie of the hall and he can tell you exactly what’s going on with the current process.
And you’ll get you’ll get the the most honest answers from from fire hall.
And I’ve never heard of a fire.
I’ll turn anyone away that wants to be a firefighter, that wants to get some answers and get some advice.
Kevin You get a lot of calls and you get as a firefighter, you see a lot of traumatic things.
Can you talk about some of your experiences around that and what kind of support do firefighters have in dealing with some of the things that you’ve seen? That’s a great question.
That’s a common question.
People always want to know what’s the grossest call of the goriest call or the sickest call you ever seen? So people got to realize that when the asking that question you’re asking, I’m asking a first responder.
Yeah. Sorry, sorry, sorry…
You leave some traumatic time for them too right? They can be pulling victims from houses.
They can be attending by car crashes.
They can be, you know, so when people ask those questions, they got to realize what they’re asking of a soldier, of a police officer, of a firefighter, of a medic and all those things.
Reliving those most traumatic events are what contributor to PTSD? I did some some stuff that no one should see.
I’m going to I mean, that’s like instead of any person who’s got any length to the career, it doesn’t take long.
I’ve been to suicides.
I’ve been to, like I said, drunk driving accidents.
That should never have happened.
And, you know, when you arrive on the scene, you just you’re trained to deal with that scene.
Just do it.
And the briefing and the the post, I guess, you know, they do have resources, but it’s all new.
A lot of stuff that exists even when I got on the job just over a decade ago, it was even less, you know, for a lot of the retired captains and stuff and thankfully, though, our city has been very, very proactive in developing new, new programs to deal with PTSD.
Like I said, I’m in the middle of a before occupational stress boss training right now, and they’re constantly looking for new resources to help people deal with PTSD, with addictions that can come from trying to deal with PTSD, that they’re trying to help us deal with coping measures and finding a trained peer support teams that are you doing a great job in my opinion of of developing these things not like you know they didn’t exist a short time ago in the recognition of what those stressors can place upon emergency responders is is tremendous.
I think as a society as a whole is is taking mental health more serious now? You have to live in an age because I’m sure that in your industry there’s some old school firefighters that would just say tough it out.
And, you know, most most of them are gone and most of them in those old guys, I mean, they they bought into the training.
They realize that, too.
And, you know, it wasn’t tough to buy it, that’s for sure.
But people saw what it was doing to help out.
It it it was pretty huge.
They have the resources are definitely welcomed and it’s helped break down those stigmas or those stereotypes of people that might be dealing with something, you know, and recognizing those things before they become an issue.
You know, having a peer support team and having people recognize those things and, you know, being able to to reach out, to find be able to reach out and actually knowing where to find the support is a pretty huge benefit.
Traditionally, firefighting was male dominated.
How how has it been evolving? Well, structural firefighting you would be correct in saying that.
That’s actually meant in previous years.
Firefighting WAS a male dominated industry.
But there’s been a lot of a lot of work.
There’s been a lot of fantastic female firefighters that came before that and able to work under chief.
That was, you know, a captains.
It was, you know, and they they were amazing.
And we have a number of new recruits in junior firefighters and all through the ranks that are female.
We actually have quite a few on our own in our department.
There are definitely more more females that are looking at firefighting as a career.
And I think if you ask them, they would tell you that it’s it’s been just as great for them as it is for us.
There’s opportunity there.
There is they’re not they’re not judged because they’re female.
They’re you know, you get judged in the fire department, but it’s on your work ethic and your team skills.
Not because of your gender or your race or your religious beliefs or your act, your sexual orientation.
Our our department is very welcoming.
It’s our community.
It’s it’s it’s a brotherhood, sisterhood.
And, you know, it is definitely changing.
Let’s talk about the lighter side, some of the more comical calls that you’ve you’ve been to go share any of those stories? I’ve been to plenty of cats in the trees and never seen a cat skeleton.
I’m probably sure none of your viewers or listeners have ever seen a cat skeleton were when I was a rookie, actually, I went up into a tree to get a cat, scratch me and then jumped out of the tree and fell down and ran off.
And all these people are watching.
Thank God there were no cell phone because it’s like a great savory and I’ve been to ducks on the pond.
People wanted us to save some ducks that were on a pond.
They’re worried the water is going to freeze.
Oh, man, I was just a few blocks ago, I had to crawl into a second floor window because those two people are doing a web cam type interaction and one of them fell getting under their clothes and ended up Being knocked out.
So that was interesting and to come face to face I with yeah that was interesting but yeah there’s there’s a lot of phone calls to that you just giggle about afterwards.
So there’s some nudity involved in your industry.
There can be.
Do you do you guys have a fire pole in your fire hall still.
No, no, no. There’s actually one station.
One…Station 10 to have them, but they don’t, think OHAS or something, doesn’t want to slide down upon to us in an ankle.
So we’re all hoping for slides of the original ball pit at the bottom of it or something.
Okay, enough, enough.
You have some humanitarian work that you do.
Can you talk to us and plug that, tell us all about what you’re doing.
So I can.
About ten years ago, I was lucky enough to be selected to be a member of a group that extends to Ukraine.
There’s a Rotary Rotary Group study exchange, and I was selected as a contingency because it was focused on emergency services.
So I was able to go to Ukraine tour around the entire country and see what it was like over there.
And it back then it was archaic.
they were talking trucks that were still from Soviet era guys with no bunker gear like buildings were crumbling like it was they were they were in need of help.
So when I came back to Canada, you want your gear swap out.
So it’s what you and I asked him if I could get some of this gear that they were going to dispose of and he told me, Write a business plan, tell me why I should do it, how are you going to do it? So I did.
And then we created Firefighter Aid Ukraine and it just snowballed from there.
And we started getting equipment from all over, from different or even specific industries and departments. And it quickly turned not just to Ukraine but into other countries too, because we started buying homes for equipment that Ukraine could use.
But it can be used in like Syria, for instance, during the civil war, we would send it’s medical supplies there.
We had stuff that wasn’t compatible.
This we sent it to like India, Cuba and work with another organization.
Send stuff to the Philippines and we just, you know, it went well and it was everything was going to plan and saw that everything was going well.
So we to continue doing it. And then the war broke out.
Ukraine and and we didn’t stop we were still middle of doing it.
We shifted gears instead of shipping more equipment, we shipped all the or 200 tons of equipment now to Ukraine or 109, I think since the war started and it’s all PPE, medical equipment like X-ray machines and incubators and ultrasound machines and jaws of life.
And, you know, they were shipping of anything of high value rescue equipment or hospital equipment.
And yeah, we’re still doing that now.
And it’s afforded me a lot of great opportunities to meet people around the world and see a lot of great places and a lot fantastic relationships.
So, you know, if any of your listeners want to go to firefighteraidukraine.com , they can learn more about our report, about our program.
They can even make a donation there.
They can find them on social media, on Facebook, Firefighter Ukraine is the page.
And they can see what you’ve done in the past and what we’re doing in the future.
Can you talk about the the support that you’ve had for Firefighter Aid Ukraine? Yeah. You know.
The project initially got greenlit by our then chief, Ken Block, and I had the support of some deputy chiefs that really played a critical role, one chief moved to Leduc and the other Chief moved out to Canmore.
So great contact with them.
But you know, we’ve had great support from Alberta Health Services, we’ve had great support from City Council.
But, you know, our current administration has been tremendously, tremendously supportive, especially in light of what’s going on in Ukraine right now.
So I can’t I can’t say enough about the support they get.
And from my my brothers as well, my union, you know, we’ve proven itself and they just continue to to support us in every way, shape or form that they can.
And it’s pretty great.
I guess we’ll we’ll kind of conclude on this.
Why would you tell somebody to become a firefighter? I would tell someone become a firefighter if, you know, community service, community involvement, something that they that they enjoy or that that means something to them.
If becoming rich is… then don’t become a firefighter, but if you know, you want to be, you know, live a full life, if you want to have a great balance between friends, family, professional, professionally, it’s a great thing to explore.
You know, there’s many in one part of the emergency services police, fire, EMS, even the military, they’ll they’ll attract similar people.
And we get to see things.
We’re always using our minds, all using our hands.
We’re always facing new challenges that you know the differ so building camaraderie within your in your crew it’s it’s pretty fulfilling all of those things appeal to you then you should explore fire or the other stepchildren of the emergency services.
Kevin, thank you so much for coming on the podcast and thank you for all the volunteer work that you do, the humanitarian efforts.
We really appreciate it.
And you’re absolutely making a difference in this world.
Thank you so much.
No problem. Thank you for having me.
Thank you for tuning in to The Job Talk Podcast.
For more information, please visit us at thejobtalk.com Our podcast music was created by our friend Mike Malone in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.