Written by Jennifer Mabee
July 9, 2012, Midland, Ont. – I had one hour to go in my shift on Friday. The phone rang in the fire hall and the young woman on the other end of the line started to tell me about a small brush fire on an island. After getting the location from her, I told her to dial 911 and call it in, and that the firefighters from Station 3 would be over shortly.
I hung up the phone, looked at my significant other, who’d just stopped by with a coffee for me, and shrugged. “I’ll see ya later,” I said. He’s a volunteer firefighter in a neighbouring township; he knows how it is.
As I made my way downstairs to the fire hall, the tones went out across the radios in the hall and my pager. Funny thing though, there was no mention of the call being on an island.
I walked across the apparatus floor and opened the bay door for the pumper, then I radioed our dispatch and advised that our station was “manned with one,” and inquired as to whether the call was on an island or mainland. The dispatcher advised that the call was on the mainland.
“Strange,” I thought to myself, the woman I spoke to said it was on an island. Then the mental barrage began . . .
“She did tell me it was on an island so which unit should I get ready first, the pumper or Marine 3? It’s right near the locks in Port Severn, so it’s just around the corner from the hall. If we’re taking Marine 3, it needs to be hooked up to Car 3 (because it’s trailered).”
I grabbed the keys and went out to where the boat and Car 3 are parked beside the hall.
I looked at the trailer hitch, and its proximity to the tow hitch, and wondered if I could move the boat to line the two up and hook it up myself. After a feeble attempt, I thought to myself, “OK, Pump 3 it is.”
I got my coveralls on, grabbed my helmet and gloves and jumped in Pump 3. I started the truck, pulled it out of the hall, and turned on the lights . And then I waited. And waited. I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel while I waited some more.
It’s funny how, when you’re in the hall and the pager goes off, no matter how quickly the next person gets there, it still seems like you’ve waited forever for someone to show up.
Finally, my buddy Stu pulled in, followed by our recruit (with his green light flashing . . . heehee), and then another firefighter, our district chief, and a captain and his son. I yelled to Stu, “She called the hall first and said it was on an island, but dispatch said mainland.” He said he’d get Marine 3 ready and roll it.
My DC jumped in the passenger seat and a fellow firefighter got in the back. Finally, we were rolling. And almost as quickly, we were on scene. The firefighter in the back said he’d go talk to the lock master and find out where the call was. As I looked over my shoulder, I noticed some smoke coming from a small island on the south side of the road.
My DC and I got out of the truck and walked over to where the smoke was coming from. It did turn out to be on an island, but fortunately for us, it was one that we could walk to, and it was a minor fire. It just meant getting our feet wet. Once we were able to see what we were dealing with, I thought to myself, “I better get back to my truck, since I’m the driver.” (There’ve been recent discussions in the hall about leaving your truck.)
As I got back to the truck I noticed that someone had put out pylons around it. “I forgot my pylons too . . . I’m so gonna hear about this.” I thought.
Just then the firefighter from the back seat walked past me and handed me a bucket. “Here, take a bucket. Let’s go put this out.”
“OK.” I said and took the other bucket and followed him back down to the island.
Seriously, we put the fire out the old-fashioned bucket-brigade way. Mind you, the other firefighter’s bucket had multiple holes in it so we had a good laugh over that. He said he’d be asking for a new bucket at training that night. And we both laughed when he got his bucket caught in a tree branch and I blurted out, “Fire Attack One is down!”
A portable pump and forestry hose were also used to make sure the area was significantly saturated, but I still say the bucket brigade had achieved loss stopped.
Back at the hall after cleanup, my captain looked at me and said one word: “Pylons.” I laughed and said, “Yes, sir.” Then he said, “And don’t leave your truck,” with a smirk on his face. “Yes, sir,” I replied with a chuckle.
I believe that the potential is there to learn something every time you go to a call. It may be something big, and it may be something small. As long as you’re learning and improving your game at each call, it all counts.
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