April 30, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – I went to Disney World!!! OK, it wasn't the one in Florida with the Magic Kingdom but for me, Pierce Manufacturing's plant in Appleton, Wis., is almost as close.
I made the trip last week to have pre-build meetings regarding the new rescue truck Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) will receive in October. This is the third trip I’ve made to Pierce’s main plant in the past four years. Our department has been lucky enough to have great support from our town council and, as a result, we have been able to tap in to some of Alberta’s Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding that has come to Redwood Meadows. An engine (2009), rapid response vehicle (2009), tanker (2011) and now, a new rescue, have all been approved. When the rescue arrives, that will leave just our second out engine and a pickup truck to be replaced. The remainder of our fleet will be less than four years old.
It’s amazing how a drawing of a fire truck taped to the window of the office brings smiles to the faces of our firefighters, just as if they found out they were on the way to visit Mickey. The crew immediately started talking about the improvements over the old rescue, a former City of Calgary ambulance. Conversations about the first to respond in the truck are happening. The Q siren will be a huge hit, judging from how much they like it on the spare truck we’re using now.
Sadly, it is also remarkable how a piece of paper can be a blow to groups of firefighters protecting our country. While in Appleton, my good friend Vince MacKenzie, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services, and his membership found out that the provincial budget papers were tearing at the hearts of many a small community in Canada’s most eastern province. Cuts of $2.7 million mean fire departments in Newfoundland and Labrador will have to continue to struggle with older equipment that has reached – or will in the near future – the end of their service lives, endangering not only the firefighters who staff the trucks but also the citizens our brothers and sisters are trying to protect. Last year in Newfoundland and Labrador, 22 fire trucks were purchased in a cost-sharing program. With the cut announced last week, just seven new fire trucks will be funded through this program for 2012. Vince says there are more than 60 requests for trucks on file to benefit from the program. That means that instead of the province’s fire departments being on track to replace these trucks in just over three years, it will now take more than eight years to meet all current requests. Like always, crews will make it work, but at what costs?
Hopefully, in future provincial and federal budgets, governments will continue to support emergency services and bring funding back to previous levels. Only time and the economy will tell, but let’s hope that our elected representatives return funding for Canadian fire departments and programs across the country. In time, other fire chiefs and firefighters will be able to travel to their Disney World to work on their new trucks.
Rob Evans is the fire chief for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary. Evans attended the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1989 and studied photojournalism. In 1992, he joined RMES after taking pictures of an interface fire and making prints for the department. He has his NFPA 1001 level II certification, NFPA 472 Operations and Awareness (hazmat), NFPA 1041 level I (fire service instructor), Dalhousie University Certificate in Fire Service Leadership and Certificate in Fire Service Administration and is a registered Emergency Medical Responder with the Alberta College of Paramedics. He lives in Redwood Meadows with his wife, a firefighter/EMT with RMES, and three children. Contact him at