Personal Finance

Fire Academy Demo – Save Money With Free Local Activities

car-fireOne suggestion for saving money that I’ve read on countless websites is to participate in free (or very cheap) activities that are happening in your community.  Things like festivals, open houses etc are good examples.  I’ve never really followed this advice since most “community” events seem to be geared toward people with kids – a group I wasn’t a part of until a few years ago.  Now that I have a couple of little rugrats I seek out this sort of thing mainly because it is something to do with the kids.

We did one such activity a while back with the annual Toronto Fire Academy open house.  We missed this event last year so we made sure to plan for it this year.  Basically the academy does all the training for the Toronto Fire Department:  classes and field training.  They have a large building which I assume holds all the training classrooms.  There are also other training “props” on site – a train car, a car – both of which can be set on fire.   At the open house they had demos for quite a few exciting training exercises.  The great thing about this open house was that although it was geared towards kids, anyone with any interest in seeing things on fire (and who doesn’t?) would enjoy it.

My only complaint about a lot of these local events is that it can be hard to find out about them.

Do you go to local, free events?  How do you find out about them?

Here were some of the highlights of the fire academy open house:

Train Tanker car on fire

Somebody turn on the water!
Somebody turn on the water!

This was the best demo of the day – they had us about 300 feet back from the fire and you could really feel the heat.  I can’t imagine how hot is must be when you are only 50 feet away.

That's better
That's better

Burning car

This was pretty neat – although not as good as the train car.


Ladder truck with extended ladder


This was pretty cool – I had never seen a big fire truck up close and the guy swinging around at the top of the ladder was quite impressive.  The ladder is 105 feet long and he said the truck appears small when you are at the top.  Note the hydraulic system used to keep the truck level.  We also got to sit in the driver’s seat as well.  There were a couple of different firemen who went up the ladder and they both took quite a few pictures with their cell phones.  I guess it’s one of the few times they get to climb the ladder in a relaxed setting.

“Jaws of life” demo

This demo wasn’t as visually interesting as the fire demos but the firemen had both of the doors of the car off in about 10 minutes.  The tools they use are incredible – very, very powerful.  They could probably have gotten the doors off quicker but safety for the firemen and the people trapped in the car is more important so they take a bit of time.

Windows smashed - starting on rear door
Windows smashed - starting on rear door
Making progress
Making progress

15 replies on “Fire Academy Demo – Save Money With Free Local Activities”

Great photos Mike!

Without children of our own, my wife and I don’t really do much of this, but my sister-in-law is the queen of finding activities. Her kids are always doing something, and she often tries to invite us out also to make it a bigger family get-together. Good strategy.

I read the community paper (online at I’m subscribed to the Celebrate Toronto! e-Newsletter (a link to subscribe can be found on the city’s festivals and events calendar site at and the RSS feed of the University of Toronto events calendar, since they often have events — although not usually for kids — open to the public ( The other local universities probably have something similar, but I haven’t checked.

Hi Mike,

Yes, I agree, its very hard to find these events. However, I’m open to do partner with you if you’re willing to take on this project. I own a domain and hosting company and also marketing and media company geared to small business owners.

I too have rugrats and it’s very hard for me to find it also. I’m sure there are other parents out there who also experience that.

Jess, I would love to partner with you as long as you do all the work! 🙂

It had occurred to me that a good site with events like this would be an idea but I doubt I would take it on.

You would need to have people email the events to you.
You’d have to promote it quite a bit to raise awareness.
It could be quite time consuming – putting up the new events and removing the old ones.
I don’t know if it would make much money. The only monetization I can think of would be to grow it to the point where event organizers would pay to get the event posted (ie $15/week) or whatever.
I suspect I can probably look a larger local site like Craigslist and find events on there.

I can register domain, host it on my server and do the website but , I agree with you about the marketing and monetization of the site and work related to it. I run multiple business and don’t want this site “pulling the boat down” lol…

Maybe someone else, who has a lot time, is already doing it as we posted it here. Time will tell. =)

Mr. Cheap – the kids loved it (as did I). We are all “fired” up about going next year. 🙂

Jess –
Another huge challenge would be the presentation of the data – ideally you would want an application that allows the user to pick an area and a date range (and an age range?) and produce a list of applicable events. But some events are local (school fun fair) and some are much larger (Taste of the Danforth) – how do you show both? Or do they have to do 2 searches. This would not be easy.

One solution for the data presentation might RSS email feeds – they can be set up for different categories so someone could sign up for any events in the “Toronto” category and would be notified of all city-wide events. That same person could also sign up for the “Beaches” feed and be notified of smaller events in that area. They could also sign up for feeds from surrounding areas as well (ie Riverdale for example) to keep their options open.

With that model the website would be crap – just a blog with a million unorganized announcements from all over the city but it would be easier to set up. The downside is that the user can’t easily “search” for events on Saturday morning – they have to sign up for the email feed in advance. Of course you could put the event date as a category or tag as well which might make the searching possible.

Another negative of this project (I’m good at negatives) would be the commitment – once you start you have to keep going regardless of the volume of work. In contrast, a blog like 4P can stop posting for a couple of weeks and it wouldn’t really matter.


Not sure exactly where you are located, but for Toronto there are at least some resources. Start with City’s, where they publish some of the events, generally the street festivals are all there. Then you can search for public Google calendars on different interests. And for younger people, there are some weekly mailing lists like toronto weekender and others. TTC weekly postings are also helpful for big events, since they tell you where the traffic is closed and why.

But it’s not that easy to find smaller events, as you did. I’ll sure mark next year’s Toronto Fire demo in my calendar!


Vasile – thanks for the info. Yes, I figured that larger events should be listed somewhere. The fire demo did get some press – I heard about it on CP24 but it was after the fact. 🙂


I agree and I understand the system you are talking about. The RSS email, mailing list, and etc.. I can create a system for it and make it automated. I already developed those system on some of my sites. Check below.
However, the work to fill the mailing list and marketing are the issues.

Check some of the models that I have developed: – Canadian Free PRess Release Submission – Canada’s Free small business directory – Canada’s Free Small business Classified Ads

Yeah, that’s the problem, I also always find about events after they’re done 🙂 But as soon as I find one, I just make a note in my calendar for the next year.

Too busy looking at the cool pictures to read the big bold question.

My sister-in-law usually finds events through either her ‘mommy’ peer groups, she spends quite a lot of time at the local rec centre, lots of groups on facebook whose sole purpose is free events for kids, RFD has a tonne, and local community centre magazines/flyers if you get those.

Looks like you had a blast.

I find free events by reading the paper, checking out community bulletin boards and word of month. I love cheap activities! They make this single mom’s life fun.

LOLOL! When I saw this, all I could think of was years ago when I drove out to Calgary with my then elementary age kids so they could see their dad for a couple of days.

We walked into his place and he turned on a video of himself at Fire School and plunked the kids down in front of it (the youngest was 5). There was a swimming pool full of jet fuel that they set on fire. Then he stops the tape, rewinds slightly, starts it again and says, “Look, here’s where the wind changes and my instructor catches on fire! There we are putting him out.”

My mind still boggles over the idea that that was appropriate to show 5, 7 & 10 year olds.

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