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Between Alarms – April 2013

We are all familiar with the word brotherhood, but do we truly understand its Goliath strength and amazing power?

March 22, 2013
By Arjuna George

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We are all familiar with the word brotherhood, but do we truly understand its Goliath strength and amazing power? The power of the brotherhood is why the fire service is the best profession in the world; it’s more than a job or a career – it’s a way of life.

When we talk about the fire service brotherhood, it’s understood that the brotherhood includes males, females, volunteers and career firefighters from across Canada and around the globe. When we launch into our careers and begin to serve our communities, we also begin to serve our brothers and sisters: this is by far the most significant part of being a firefighter – to be a part of this lifelong family.

Between alarms is when the brotherhood can show its power and when we can build fellowship and lifelong relationships with trust, compassion and support. If we don’t encourage and foster healthy relationships, the brotherhood as we know it will fade into the past. It’s up to each of us to foster and pass on the torch.

The word brotherhood should not be taken lightly: it and the fire service in general are larger than all of us, and its power can work magic. As firefighters, our job is to promote the brotherhood and do our part to keep it alive and as strong as ever.

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Many of us have been affected by an injury to a brother or sister or an illness in our fire halls; for a firefighter, this is a family member – a brother or sister who needs you more than ever. It’s often during these hard times that we see the most visible displays of brotherhood; it’s an amazing spectacle to watch and it’s an honour to be a part of such a movement.

Unfortunately, the brotherhood of Salt Spring Island Fire Rescue in British Columbia is feeling the spirit more than ever. One of our own is sick and is in the fight of his life. Lt. Travis Guedes, who has been diagnosed with an advanced case of brain cancer, is sparking a new togetherness that we have not felt in some time. With all the pain we are feeling, we are, at the same time, feeling the power of our fellowship.

The support and caring for Guedes – and for our fire/rescue family – that is pouring in from firefighters from all across Canada is truly breathtaking and our membership has never come together to be as united as we are now. I have never been as proud as I am right now to be a brother and a Salt Spring Island firefighter. How can we keep the magic alive and build on the superpowers of the brotherhood?

Here are some areas that I feel we can all embrace to sustain the camaraderie and esprit de corps. First let’s begin with accepting all firefighters as one: one family, one brotherhood. If you do fire fighting as a career or you volunteer in your community, you are a brother or a sister to all of us. Let’s start there, because accepting and treating all with the same respect is the essence of brotherhood. Let’s not wait to show our loyalty to and compassion for our own; let’s start today and let’s show it daily!

Keep the bond alive by attending conferences and courses as these provide a look at the world’s fire services and can help to re-energize your commitment and passion for this great profession; these types of educational opportunities provide a valuable global perspective and reassure us that we are all playing the same game and we are indeed one big family.

Probably the most breathtaking and emotionally charged event that displays the ultimate in brotherhood is witnessing a line-of-duty-death funeral. We all know fire fighting is a risky business and nothing in the world makes you feel more sorrow and pride at the exact same moment than a funeral for a fallen brother or sister. Firefighters from across the world migrate to pay their respects and honour their calling. There are few other professions in the world that exhibit this sort of dedication and unity. The events that followed 9-11 made me fully realize the power of the brotherhood and the traditions of the fire service. My journey to New York to show respect to the fallen opened my eyes and provided me with a gift that I could find nowhere else.

Our fellow firefighters understand the things we experience – the sometimes overwhelming emotions as we regularly face traumatic situations. In fact,  the fire service could be described as a support group. When a fire department or firefighter needs help and support, the fire service automatically steps up to the plate, offering phone calls of support or a show of unity at a line-of-duty-death funeral. This is not a common occurrence for many in our communities – that is why we must cherish the brotherhood and continue to support our fellow members. Most people do not get to experience the full power and special bond we share.

The public perception of the brotherhood is one reason we continue to recruit new members; most people desire to be part of something bigger, something that provides satisfaction and addresses some of life’s hardest and most sought-after goals: to help others and to be part of a family. The faith of the brotherhood changes your life and can help fill voids in it.

So what do we get in return for building a strong brotherhood? We get pride. Pride is one of the key gifts we can give each other: pride in ourselves, pride in each other, pride in our department and pride in the fire service.

The brotherhood provided me with an amazing group of friends and extended family members. It has supported me through tough times and brought people into my life with whom I can share the good times. I believe there are moments in life that you cannot handle alone and, for some, the fire family is the one we turn to in those difficult circumstances. I believe that the brotherhood has made me a better person, a better father and a better husband. I intend on fostering that brotherhood and paying it forward.

This column was written in honour of our brother, Lt. Travis Guedes. 


Arjuna George is a 15-year veteran and the deputy fire chief of Operations on Salt Spring Island, B.C. E-mail him at ageorge@saltspringfire.com and follow him on Twitter at @AJGeorgefire


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