He was a new dad who just moved into a townhouse three blocks from the community fire hall. His wife was on maternity leave, and he often found himself pacing the hallway in the middle of the night trying to get his baby daughter back to sleep. That’s when he would hear the sirens and wonder where those firefighters were going at that hour. Well, he found out soon enough when he joined the department six months later.
What was he getting himself into? He had a job during the day, another job at night being a father, and a third job whenever the pager went off. But he loved it; the thrill of bolting out the door and running, driving or cycling to the fire hall was such an adrenaline rush because he knew someone in town needed his help. Either their house was on fire or they were trapped in an overturned vehicle in the ditch. Most times, however, it was a neighbour who needed first aid. He recalls the panel van that he and his comrades rode in during these calls. There were no seatbelts back then, so every time they went over a pothole, their entire bodies lifted off the seat about half a foot, prompting the odd “whoa!” or “hey!”
The feeling of accomplishment after helping someone in a crisis was the reason he continued serving the community for 16 years. The camaraderie in that hall was amazing; it was like a second family to him with many brothers and sisters supporting each other and joking around.
He will never forget the time he drove one of the big fire engines to a grass fire and operated the pump so that his comrade could put out the flames that were heading up the hill towards a couple of houses. The pride he felt afterwards was one of the best moments of his life.
Although people often called him and his fellow firefighters heroes, he didn’t feel like one in the truest sense of the word. He was just doing a job – what he felt he should do to help his community.
Now, nearing 60, he doesn’t have the adrenaline he once had, and he can’t carry a fire hose as far as he used to. He’s one of the masses now, watching TV and listening to the sirens melt into the night. How he misses his second family.
During Fire Prevention Week the Pioneer salutes these brave men and women who put themselves at risk every time they rush out the door to answer the call. This summer they truly saved our communities in the Columbia Valley. How can we ever thank them? Well, we can start by making sure our smoke detectors are working properly; the test only takes a minute. Also, if you haven’t done so already, it’s time to start adopting the “FireSmart” mindset around your home, which is the best investment you can make without costing you a dime.
Lyonel Doherty, editor