July 24, 2012, Winnipeg – So, how is your summer going? Have you had the chance to take some time off, or are your holidays scheduled for November again? For those of us who are fortunate enough to have summer holidays, it’s time to get out of Dodge (wherever that is) and hit the road.
It’s always neat to hear stories in the fire hall of what we did travel-wise, as we share our wisdom on everything from how to get a cheap ticket to an event or what hotel to stay in.
How many of us have loaded up the car and headed out to a new city, parked at a shopping centre only to find the car you parked beside has a familiar Maltese cross sticker on it? The license plate may be strange, but the familiarity of the brotherhood is never truly that far away. Wherever we go, there is a security in knowing that the fire service is with us. Call it a force or presence, but if I were in a jam in a strange place, I would seriously consider going to the local fire station for help.
It is almost as if there is an unwritten code: we take care of each other when we are away from home, we have each others’ backs and we are united brethren, which is evident from coast to coast in this country, and internationally as well.
We’ve all poked our heads into a foreign fire station to see what apparatus they have, maybe looking for a t-shirt to buy or swap, or just to have a cup of coffee with a group of firefighters who can pass on some helpful tourist information. I don’t swap pins or patches but I know some of you do. When the Shaws load up the van and head out on vacation, quite often we end up at a local fire station. I like meeting and hearing how other departments do the job.
I’m putting together a blog on firefighter exchanges and some great firefighter travel stories. Until then, here is my best travel story;
My best story of firefighter brotherhood is about being stuck in the Denver airport with nothing to do. I was coming back from Houston with another firefighter – we had visited a good friend of mine who had just moved there. We had arranged a ride-along with the HFD engine 68 house and we had a blast. We had to change planes in Denver on the way home to Winnipeg and our flight was cancelled for no apparent reason. We were sitting at the gate after our flight had been cancelled and had just found out we would not be going home for another seven hours or so. On a whim, I picked up the airport red information phone that was on the wall, and when the nice woman came on the line, I asked to be connected to the airport fire station.
“Is there a fire that you are reporting?” she asked in a hurried fashion.
“Nope, just two Canadian firefighters stuck in your airport for the next seven hours, and we are bored.”
From my recollection, that is exactly what I said. The line went silent, and I thought I had been disconnected for what the operator thought was some sort of practical joke. About 30 seconds later a voice came on the other end of the line.
“Hello, you guys looking for a station tour, or what?”
I explained our situation, and the firefighter on the other end of the line seemed to recall that he had heard of Winnipeg before.
“Can you get yourself to door B-66, in the domestic terminal?”
We said yes, and hurried along through walkways and made our way out the door. We had left the secure area and would have to go through the security screening process again. Sitting outside airport door B-66 was a bright yellow Hummer with Denver airport fire markings. Our day was looking up! The Denver firefighter had to move a bunch of responder gear to make room for us to sit in the back of the quick-response vehicle and we headed out onto the tarmac, crossing in front of planes and over runways as we headed toward the fire station, which was quite far from the terminal.
After a great free lunch, and relaxing for a bit, the boys had to do some drills and invited us to play. We were given the opportunity to drive and deploy the water cannon in the brand new airport fire/rescue apparatus. We swapped stories and had a great afternoon with some great guys. When it was time to go back, the Hummer dropped us off at our gate, and our new friends said to come on back any time.
Now, you tell me another group of men and women who would take care of two complete strangers like that. Here are some pictures to prove it!
|Blogger Jay Shaw chats with a Denver airport firefighter. Photo by Jay Shaw.
|Jay Shaw tries out the new fire apparatus at the Denver airport. Photo by Jay Shaw.
||The new fire apparatus at the Denver airport. Photo by Jay Shaw.
Jay Shaw is a 10-year member of the Winnipeg Fire Department who has worked in hospital emergency rooms, on rural ambulance services and with the Canadian Forces fire service. He is completing graduate studies in disaster and emergency management at Royal Roads University. Contact him at
or follow him on Twitter @911writer.