July 10, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – The Canadian fire service is as diverse as any throughout the world but the month of June showcased just how different events and responses can be across the country. On the east coast, fires raged near Happy Valley-Goose Bay, N.L., while massive flash flooding tested firefighters in Sicamous, B.C. Diversity in the Canadian fire service isn’t a new concept to any of us who have been firefighters for any length of time.
Each year firefighters from across the country, coming from departments as diverse as the calls to which we respond, are recognized for their service to their provinces and to the country. On Canada Day, our department recognized some of that experience by handing out Alberta Emergency Service medals for 12 years of service in the province, Federal Fire Service Exemplary Service medals and one local service medal.
In all, the members who were honored to receive the medals combine for 202 years of experience with Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES).
Ed Bowen, our retired fire chief, was celebrated for giving 34 years of service to our department. Ed was one of our founding members and led the department from the early days in the maintenance shed on the local golf course to the hall we enjoy today.
During his 31 years, retired captain Dave McPherson was instrumental in helping us build many of our trucks prior to actually purchasing them from manufacturers. Without Dave’s expertise, we just would not have had a fire department. Dave also took the lead in building the hose tower at our station after we ended up hanging hoses throughout the building to dry after a winter house fire.
George Low came to us via the Pickering, Ont., fire department and the training in our department has never looked back. Thank you Pickering Chief Bill Douglas – your loss was an immeasurable gain for RMES.
Capt. Rod Gow has more than 20 years with our department and brings his expertise and experience as a provincial conservation officer to the department.
And our fire communications officer, Jason Low, brings radio knowledge that none of us even comes close to having. This expertise has proven very important as Alberta moves towards a provincial 700 MHz radio system for emergency responders.
Three of us received the medals that recognize 12 years of service to Alberta. Lt. Russ Jenkins has been with our department since he was a teenager. His experiences include multiple summers on a provincial helitack crew fighting forest fires. The knowledge of wildland firefighting that he has passed along to our other members is great.
In her 19 years with the department, Capt./EMT Jennifer Evans has trained our numerous medical co-responders to keep up with the latest pre-hospital care techniques.
And me, I have always heard and believed that a good leader rarely says the word I. Coming up through the ranks over the past 20 years, I have always leaned on our team. Nobody is successful without help from others at some point. Our team, regardless of their time on the department has the knowledge and skills to help us all succeed.
And that brings me to the local service medal that was awarded to firefighter/EMT Andrea Koenders for the five years of service with our department.
All of these committed individuals have seen everything in our responses from wildland fires to dangerous flooding. And like many others across the country, they have extensive experience responding to a variety of incidents.
The medal ceremony was a great way to end Redwood Meadows’ Canada Day celebrations. The presentations were made in front of townspeople gathered in the playing field – a fitting tribute to a great team.
The medals were handed out by our MLA, Bruce McAllister. Unfortunately, we didn’t know that we were getting the federal awards until that week and were unable to properly invite our MP, Ted Menzies, to help present the awards. If you have not already done so, appoint someone on your fire department to determine what medals are available to your members and who is eligible to receive the awards. Make sure your teams are recognized for the great contributions they’re making to your communities.
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.