April 30, 2012, Midland, Ont. - After reading one of Oprah’s Things-I-know-for-sure columns, I asked myself if there was anything that I know for sure. What a conundrum for a blonde female!! Why would I do that to myself?
As a woman, I fully admit to changing my mind on occasion, which is my prerogative, and it’s not that I take a long time to decide on things, I just like to weigh all my options. Besides, I’m a Libra; we like balance.
Having said that, there are indeed things I know for sure when it comes to the fire department and here are my top five:
1) Nothing compares to the experience of being a member of a volunteer fire department. The four years that I was away from the fire department, I felt like a part of me was missing. (And I don’t just mean the pager. Although, come to think of it, watch a firefighter when he or she realizes the pager was left home, and see what happens. They’ll be texting someone to call or text them if there’s a call.)
2) Some of the very best friends I’ve ever had were (and still are) people I’ve met through the fire department. You know who you are. (And if you don’t, then perhaps it’s a little more of a one sided thing, but still, in my mind, we’re tight.)
3) It really is a brotherhood, and sisters are as much a part of the brotherhood as the brothers are. Everyone looks out for each other. Well, maybe some more than others; there very well might be some who would just as soon watch you walk off a roof as warn you that you’re about to go a*# over teakettle, but it’s all good. We’re all friends. I think.
4) You either get the fire department thing, or you don’t. It’s not something that can be easily explained to others; it’s a feeling, a connection. You drop everything for it. The only thing I can compare it to is that it’s similar to the connection you have with your children (for those of you who have children.) I welcome comparisons from those of you who don’t have children. Like you young ‘uns; maybe you’d compare it to your . . . I don’t know, what is it that you 20-somethings do with all your spare time since you don’t have children? Play video games?
5) It really is a common thread that connects us all. No matter where you go, if you see a fellow volunteer firefighter (easily identified by the pager on the belt, the Maltese cross on a t-shirt, the fire department coat and/or ball cap), you instantly understand something about that person. You just know. You don’t even need to say anything, a simple nod or smile covers it all. It’s kind of like, well, driving a Jeep. I have fellow Jeep (TJ/YJ/Wrangler) drivers wave at me all the time when I’m in my Jeep and I don’t have a clue who they are. I just know that they must be cool because they drive a Jeep. It’s the same thing with volunteer firefighters.
We’re all cool like that.
Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario. She began her fire career with the Township of Georgian Bay in 1997 and became the department's fire prevention officer in 2000 and a captain in 2003. She was a fire inspector with the City of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services before taking time off to focus on family, and is excited to be back at it. E-mail her at