Size-up
Written by Rob Evans
Jan. 13, 2017, Redwood Meadows, Alta. -  Across this great country there have been many firefighters who have made significant contributions to their fire departments over many, many years. In recent days, I have been thinking about those who made a difference in our own department here in Redwood Meadows.
Written by Rob Evans
Sept. 12, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Where were you when...? We have all heard that question or asked it of people. In the past week we have had to think about it once again, but I am sure that the answer will be etched in each other's brains for an eternity.

For me, I was laying in my bed wondering why I was awake. I should have been sleeping in, preparing for my upcoming night shift at Calgary's fire dispatch. I turned on the TV with about five minutes to try to take in what was happening before the second tower was hit. I cursed at the screen, and I recall feelings of initial disbelief, and then sadness and hate when that 767 slammed into World Trade Center 1, the south tower.

In September 2001, I had only been at fire dispatch for two and a half years after working at a major daily newspaper for the previous seven years. The remote control was glued into my hand for the next few hours as I switched back and forth from station to station getting as much information as I could, just like we would in the newsroom. The first gulf war, the Olympics, any election, these were always fun to be in the newsroom for. Now, I was just a copy runner (gopher) for the most part although I did edit some of the TV Guide and provide some freelance photography and help in the darkroom once in a while, but it was still fun to be part of the team.

Reflecting yesterday on the events of 15 years ago I realized that was the first time that I wanted to be somewhere as part of two teams. The urge to use my training and experience to help the brotherhood of the FDNY at ground zero was still greater, but the desire to be there and record such a historical event through my lenses was strong as well. This year it has been reported that it is the first time that high school freshmen will be learning about the events of 9/11 in their history classes. History, which many of us watched, and knew at the time, we were viewing world-changing events unfold.

Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
June 13, 2016, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Where is the chief? I'm sure every fire station in Canada has heard that at least once in the past month and a half. From the Atlantic to the Pacific, many fire chiefs have been attending provincial fire chiefs association conferences, myself included.

Two weeks ago the Tsuut'ina Nation became the first First Nation to host the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association (AFCA) conference. With Redwood Meadows being on Tsuut'ina land, it only made sense for me to take vacation time from my paying job to attend the conference.

For me, spending time as a fire chief with peers from across the province and country truly is a vacation. I had not been able to attend an AFCA conference since I presented in 2014 and it was good to see friends again. It was nice to hear that challenges I face are not unique. After almost 47 years on this Earth, I have certainly learned that we all face similar roadblocks and that our support networks are what help us all down the road.

Support was a healthy topic throughout the conference as many spoke about the beast of a fire that swept through Fort McMurray in the beginning of May. Informal discussions about mutual aid, self-dispatching and the health of firefighters returning from the fire fight were just some of the things heard around the tables. Premier Rachel Notley spoke about the fire as well during her address to the crowd. Notley commended Alberta’s fire chiefs for the work they do continually protecting Albertans, and reaffirmed her government’s commitment to helping everyone recover from the devastating Fort McMurray fire. It will be interesting to see how the wildfire is dissected in order for us all to learn better ways of responding to these types of emergencies. Living in a wildland-interface community, I will be paying close attention to what is learned from this monster fire.

At a recent disaster forum I attended a speaker said: "Lessons are not learned unless they are acted upon." I truly hope that those many communities across Alberta and the country that are located close to the interface take action. As firefighters, we should be promoting the FireSmart program in our communities.

Another program that we should be promoting is Answer the Call – the volunteer firefighter recruitment program that was the brainchild of AFCA president, Camrose, Alta., Fire Chief Peter Krich. Krich was able to update conference goers about the AFCA's partnership with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) to roll out the program across the country this fall; it really is exciting that smaller departments will soon have resources to help them recruit new members in their communities. While Krich was speaking about the program to fire chiefs in Tsuut'ina, Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., fire chief and CAFC board member Vince McKenzie delivered similar messaging in Ontario and British Columbia at four different conferences. Krich also made the trip to FDIC Atlantic in early June to promote the program.

Across the country, fire services face a lot of the same issues. One issue brought up at both the Alberta and British Columbia conferences was firefighter competencies and training. At Tsuut'ina, Alberta fire chiefs passed a resolution to begin dialogue with the province about developing minimum competencies for firefighters. In British Columbia, newly elected first vice-president of the Fire Chief's Association of British Columbia, Don Jolley, gave an update to fire chiefs about the B.C. playbook – the provincial minimum training standards for structural firefighters.

At Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES), we used the B.C. playbook as a template for our own in-house firefighter competency program, but we took it even further. RMES is close to a full-service fire department with the exception of some technical-rescue skills that an all-volunteer service just cannot provide, such as dive rescue. Within the RMES rank structure, firefighters work through five classes, each with different competencies. RMES used the B.C. playbook to separate the classes, but also added references to Alberta's fire fighting "S" series courses (firefighting courses offered through Lakeland College Emergency Training Centre in Vermillion, Alta.) as well as references to the different sections of the NFPA 1001 standard. Some refining is still required and improvement will continue, but it was nice to discuss this program with AFCA first vice-president, Lac St. Anne, Alta., Fire Chief Randy Schroeder, and to offer the program for use by our provincial partners.

My great take-away from this year's AFCA conference was being able to offer my help and support, and the support of my department, toward the resolution surrounding the competencies of firefighters throughout Alberta. Not only did I get a boost, but I also realized that RMES and our members continue to improve in such a way that we are able to share our experiences to help our brothers and sisters. There really is nothing like a good fire chiefs conference to re-energize and get some focus going forward.


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
May 10, 2016, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – I recently commented on social media about the fact that I needed to get back to blogging for Fire Fighting in Canada. My absence from the website has been way too long and it just did not make sense that I was slacking off on something I truly enjoy. Now, this is not meant as a "woe-is-me" type of return to Size-up, but a little bit of background is necessary.

Last June, I suffered a serious heart attack that changed my life. I wrote a few times after that, but not as often as editor Laura King or I would have liked. I have to admit that I felt a little sorry for myself and that feeling took over. I returned to work in the new year and was ready to return full-steam to blogging; it was then that my wife and I were involved in a major rollover in our minivan. Well, if that did not knock me off of my feet again, I'm not sure what would.

Fast forward to the beginning of May when I posted on social media about needing to get back to the keyboard. The drive was there, but the inspiration wasn't. How was I to return to sizing-up? Sadly, last week's wildfire in Fort McMurray was more than what I needed to get back to blogging. And boy, there was no more feeling sorry for myself after seeing my friend, Wood Buffalo Regional Fire Chief Darby Allen, on the news those first couple of nights.

Allen is normally a very happy, uplifting guy to be around, but he looked beat down. I wished that I could go up north and help him out. I wondered if how Allen looked is how I looked after the 2013 floods in Alberta, which we in Redwood Meadows Emergency Services were in the middle of. I understand how and why he looked so tired.

I watched as the man I know fought tears while talking about fighting "the beast" – a nickname given to the fire by Allen and adopted by media. As any fire chief should, Allen cares for his community and more so, for those who live and work there. Caring is why we do what we do – not to get the T-shirt, as Fire Fighting in Canada columnist Gord Schreiner often says. And speaking of T-shirts, right now there are hundreds of different fire-department T-shirts on the backs of firefighters from all over Alberta and beyond in Fort McMurray, and each and every one of these departments and their members make us all proud.

Many people asked me last week if I wanted to be in Fort McMurray; that is a tough question. I spent time as a dispatcher helping during the 2011 Slave Lake fire and I have seen first-hand the destruction that a wildfire brings to a community.

While in Slave Lake, I was fortunate enough to become friends with Fire Chief Jamie Coutts and I remember seeing him before and after getting some much needed sleep. In Fort McMurray, more command and control help recently arrived on scene; this has obviously allowed Allen to get some much-needed sleep, as the videos he has been posting show a rested man. Allen refuses to be called a hero, just like any of us, and deflects the praise to all first responders. The chief was emotional in his video address on Sunday night as he referenced the death of Emily Ryan. Emily was the daughter of Cranley Ryan, the deputy fire chief for Saprae Creek in Wood Buffalo, one of the department's volunteer halls. Emily was one of two people killed in a vehicle collision while evacuating Fort McMurray. Allen's concern for Deputy Chief Ryan was etched in his face.

Sizing-up the job that Allen, first responders, residents and businesses have done during this horrendous event makes me so proud to be a firefighter, an Albertan and a Canadian. We are Alberta Strong, and everyone is behind you, Fort McMurray, Chief Allen and all first responders in the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.



Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
Sept. 15, 2015, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Reflection. It is a word that I heard a lot this past Friday on the 14th anniversary of the attacks on the United States.

Fourteen years ago our 4-year-old boy Alex watched with us as the horror unfolded and started referring to it as the United States attack. Now, we know that there were 2,977 people from more than 90 countries killed in New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa.; it was truly an attack on the world.

The number that we, as firefighters, all remember is the 343 FDNY members who paid the ultimate sacrifice on that horrific day, but there were also other first responders: two paramedics (included in the 343 but should be mentioned separately, as well as eight paramedics from private companies), 72 law enforcement officers and 55 military personnel who also ran in while others ran out. On that Tuesday morning on Sept. 11, 2001, I remember getting out of bed in time to watch the second tower being hit by the huge jetliner. I stood in the middle of the living room frozen in disbelief as the first tower fell and then the second, not knowing the exact numbers but understanding fully that there would be many first responders dying while the world watched.

Never forget: two simple words that mean so much to so many, and while we won’t forget, is it time that we move on? Many departments have yearly memorials for all firefighters at about this time of year. Canada’s own national firefighter memorial weekend always falls around the 9-11 weekend. Last year I was able to attend the ceremony in Ottawa for the first time and while the event had sombre moments, it was also a time for brothers and sisters to get together and remember many good times. Volunteer or paid, management or the floor, private or municipal, it did not matter – that weekend we were all brothers and sisters and it reminded me about why I am so lucky to be a part of the fire service.

As with many fire departments, Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) had people from the community who wanted to become part of the fire service immediately following the 9-11 attacks. A couple stayed for years and became the brothers, albeit the bratty brothers, who we would stand beside at any time. Others, after realizing the necessary commitment to the job, moved on. Since 2001 many people have come and gone from RMES and we are currently at the end of our current recruiting campaign, which has seen close to 80 applicants for up to 10 positions.

Of those hopefuls, that 4-year-old boy who stood with us and watched so many years ago, now waits for word on his next step with RMES.

Of course his mother, one of our captains/EMTs and myself are removed from any part of his application, but I cannot wait to be able to call share my experiences, good and bad, of this great job with my son and finally stand next to him and call him brother.
Written by Rob Evans
Aug. 28, 2015, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – The pager goes off, and crews muster and respond to a serious call. Then the media shows up and starts taking pictures, shooting videos and asking questions. This can sometimes be a weekly occurrence, depending on your department’s size and the newsworthiness of any particular call on any given day.

A busy highway, or two or three, wildfires that seem to burn endlessly during dry periods, and much more can put the smallest of fire departments on the news. We do our jobs while the camera people film away. And who hasn’t tried to look busy or ignored the reporter trying to get your attention to ask a few questions? Some people do not like the media at all – actually, that seems like the biggest understatement of the year after the events of this week in Roanoke, Va., However – as I ask our firefighters – who are the first people to pick up a paper or turn on the TV after an incident at which the media was on scene? The media has a job to do and unfortunately many of the calls we respond to happen to be the hard-news stories that sell newspapers and make people tune in to their favourite television or radio stations.

Earlier this week it was the media that was in the spotlight after the horrific on-air shooting in Virginia. A morning show reporter, videographer and their interviewee were all shot at close range. The reporter and videographer died on scene, and the woman they were interviewing is reportedly in stable condition in hospital. Immediately these news gatherers became the news, big news. And from all accounts, all media is handling this incident the same as any other major news event – by gathering and reporting the information. From what I witnessed, the victims’ own station WDBJ, a CBS affiliate in Roanoke, continued with an incredible amount of poise and professionalism, not unlike how emergency services move on and gets the job done after a LODD.

Most morning shows begin their day at the same time many of us do – around 5 or 6 a.m. We watch these folks deliver information to us every morning while we drink our first coffees of the day and eat our cereal. We see them get married, have children, and, sadly for the viewers of WDBJ, in their last moments. This tragedy affects more than just those who were in the newsroom of one TV station; it also affects those who were watching live . As well, social media has given all of us means to communicate with on-air personalities in real time, and was where this senseless act was seen by so many. So yes, this tragedy is far reaching.

I don’t want to draw a bunch of parallels between this horrendous event and the LODDs that the fire service deals with so many times a year – thoughts while writing are with my media friends and acquaintances – but there is one similarity I need to mention, and that is brotherhood. There is certainly a brotherhood in journalism and the ripples are travelling across the profession right now. A local Calgary TV anchor posted to Facebook, “He was not one of us,” a statement that speaks to the feeling of brotherhood even so many kilometres away.

Think of your colleagues, keep filming our back and butts, and keep trying to get our attention, but most importantly keep gathering and delivering the news of the day because at the end of the day, we will all keep tuning in and flipping those pages.


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof


Written by Rob Evans
Aug. 27, 2015, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – While I have been off work recovering from my heart attack I have been driving around the area a lot trying to relax, taking hundreds of pictures. Photography has always been relaxing for me and it has been a good release while getting stronger. Sometimes I go out by myself to shoot, other times I take the boys or the entire family for a drive.

During a recent drive with the family we passed by a roadside memorial. My wife Jennifer, who is a captain and EMT with Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, commented that it is hard to pass the memorial without remembering the response to the call 13 years ago for a head-on collision between a tractor-trailer and an SUV. Two local boys were in the SUV; one was dead in the back seat, and the other died shortly after a lengthy extrication by our crews. The scene was on a busy two-lane highway that runs between Calgary and Redwood Meadows. Jennifer and I travel that highway many times each week. I told her that I can still see the scene as clearly as I did the afternoon I gave the initial report.

Roadside memorials are not uncommon: families and friends place crosses, flowers and other keepsakes at crash scenes more and more often, it seems. Memorials ease some of the pain in dealing with the losses, but at what cost to our members? By no means am I suggesting that memorials should be banned because of how they affect first responders, but perhaps we need to consider how these shrines impact our members.

There are at least eight memorials along highways in our response area. I can remember each and every one of the calls. Most do not trigger memories like the one I just mentioned, or the one for a soldier who committed suicide in a Christmas Day crash in 2013. We all have calls during our service that stick with us, and there is nothing strange about remembering those we have helped, but how healthy is it to be reminded daily of certain calls? Perhaps we could move on from some of those memories if it were not for these roadside displays?

I wonder if others think about these memorials in the same way. Do they even notice displays along the sides of roads? The memorials could very well hold back first responders from moving on so it’s worth asking: do they really help others with their grief? Are those families able to move on? Should these displays have time limits imposed on their placement?

There is also an ongoing safety aspect that needs to be addressed. Many sites are very close to the roadside and can distract drivers, particularly if they are elaborate. If people who frequent the sites park roadside, there are now people in possibly dangerous positions – a recipe for further crashes.

I really do not want to seem callous. I really do care about these families and their losses, but I also need to look after our firefighters at Redwood Meadows. Public safety and roadside safety at these sites are also our responsibility. Maybe if those skis at Josh and TJ’s memorial went away I would be able to see them pumping my gas at the local pumps and not inside the SUV.


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof



Written by Rob Evans
June 30, 2015, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – It’s summertime! What a great time to take four weeks off and enjoy the sun and fun for the entire month of July. Even better, what a great time to take off and help service the community with the two-call-a-day average that Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) has during the summer.

Nine days ago, I was looking forward to the week of holidays – a total of 12 days away from Public Safety Communications (PSC) in Calgary that I was going to get during the first part of July. That first week of the month is Stampede week and I was excited about getting out, taking pictures, enjoying a night with Blue Rodeo and my wife Jennifer.

Well, most of that changed a week ago on Tuesday, June 23. That day I suffered a STEMI; that acronym stands for ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction – a heart attack. I recognized what was happening almost immediately and that, the doctors said, saved my life. Good thing. I have a lot to stick around to see. One of those things was my son’s high school graduation last Saturday. Thankfully I am pretty strong, except for that 90 per cent blockage in one artery, and I was able to bounce back and get out of the hospital the day before the ceremony.

Since coming home, I have learned that I was on the go way more than I likely should have been. I was told to limit my activities and when I felt tired, cut back, which I have had to do more than I thought. But even when I was in hospital I felt the responsibility to others. I emailed CAFC executive director JP Cody-Cox less than 12 hours after my angioplasty to let him know that I was not going to be able to continue as the editorial committee chair for the time being. Fire Fighting in Canada editor Laura King got an email about my Friday deadline being shot. Others received emails as well. Not physically demanding, but I had to make sure people who were counting on me were informed about what was going on.

This speaks to the responsibility I think many of us feel, regardless of our rank. It is not about us, it is about the people, businesses, governments that we serve. Well, as I’ve learned, it has to be about us too. We all need to step back and recognize when enough is enough and that we may have to say no once in a while. We do not need to be jerks about it, just need to know when it is better for those we serve to limit the directions in which we are being pulled.

My experience in the last week has also reinforced just how special the families are that I am truly fortunate enough to be a part of – from the people at Public Safety Communications with whom I spend more time than my family, to the great police, fire, EMS and media families that I have – thank you. Each and every one of you means the world to me. And to Calgary fire department’s acting deputy chief – please do not take this the wrong way, but, Ken, I do not want to wake up staring at you ever again. Thanks for being there though. I also have to say thanks to someone I consider one of my best friends – Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Fire Chief Vince MacKenzie: your texts and thoughts during your daughter’s own high school grad meant a lot.

Since the title of my blog is Size-up, I encourage all of you to look at your health and complete a serious, thorough, well-rounded personal size-up. I had taken a look inwards last fall and made initial steps to improving my own situation; maybe too little, too late even though I had started to lose some weight. Or maybe, last week’s attack would have been that much worse. Regardless, we need to get healthy folks. We do no good trying to serving people from a hospital bed, or worse.


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
May 5, 2015, Readwood Meadows, Alta. - I was looking back at the blogs I had written for Fire Fighting in Canada and realized there was a pattern forming. That pattern seems to be very long periods between blogs. And that is a problem. Not because I am under any type of contractual agreement or anything such thing, but because I enjoy writing. Writing and photography have always been my “good” stress.

I last wrote about the need for smoke alarms in homes and sprinklers in care facilities – how the proper use of both would save lives – on March 4. Stressing the need for sprinklers and smoke alarms is nothing new for any of us, and sadly it is something we seem to need to continually reinforce. When I wrote that blog, I would never have dreamed that our fire department, Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES), would respond to a fatal house fire the next day.

A 17-year-old teen lost her life that day after becoming disoriented in the basement of a burning home. The call was a mutual aid request to RMES from a neighbouring department and by the time we had arrived, rescues had been made and the house was fully involved. Fire suppression efforts continued and we stood by until investigators were ready to have us begin the search for the girl. I was the operator of our tender and had a great crew with me during the call. It was our first fire fatality in the 23 years I have been a member of RMES and hopefully it will be our last. Smoke alarms save lives! We have to continue pressing that message or we will never have a chance of making that our last fatal fire.

There are many messages that we as firefighters need to continue delivering. Carbon-monoxide alarms are just as important as smoke alarms to have in your homes. At the beginning of April, within a two-day span, 12 people in Calgary were taken to hospital after CO incidents. Home sprinklers should remain on our radar because there is absolutely no doubt that they save lives and protect property.

But we need to deliver messages to our own and for our own as well. Whatever form or name worker’s compensation takes in your province, we need to continue educating ourselves about occupational cancers. But we also need to continue ensuring that fire departments and their members are doing everything they can to prevent those exposures. Wear your turnout gear properly. Wear your breathing apparatus. Decontaminate after exposures.

And then there are the “bad” stresses. We need to look out for one another and take care of our own mental health. We cannot stop talking about critical-incident stress. To end the stigma associated with mental-health problems we need to make talking about it the norm.

For me, writing and photography will increase so that “good” stress starts to take over. Hopefully that means you will be reading more of my ramblings as we go into summer.


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
March 4, 2015, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - It has been too long since I have been able to write, but social media posts this past Friday sickened me to the point where I had to say something. You see, Twitterverse was abuzz late last week with people obsessing over the colours of a dress – white and gold or blue and black. In fact, #theDress was the top trending topic on Twitter.

Normally this would be another hashtag that I ignored, but I just could not believe how viral the topic became. At the same time, I was reading a few posts about bodies being found in the ashes of a Quebec home that had burned the previous day – and where two toddlers were missing. That tragedy brings the total number of dead children to eight, in three provinces, in the past two weeks. Why, I wonder, isn’t there a trending hashtag on that subject?

How is it that deaths from fire continue to happen in Canada in 2015? Especially when fire departments across the country have been relentless in pushing for code changes that would make smoke alarms and residential sprinklers mandatory. Recently the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs was in Ottawa lobbying for code changes to include retroactive installation of sprinklers in facilities that house some of our country’s most vulnerable residents – our seniors. Until recently, only two provinces – Newfoundland and Labrador and Ontario – had changed its codes to require the retroactive addition of sprinklers in older buildings. A third province, Quebec, changed its code requirements after the findings of the L’lsle Verte inquiry were released. But why, in 2015, are there only three provinces that have code requirements for retroactive sprinkler installation? And why are the last national statistics on fire deaths from the Council of Canadian Fire Marshals and Fire Commissioners from 2007?

In fire fighting we seem to change tactics quickly when things are not progressing. If something is not working we revise our incident action plan to meet changing conditions. As firefighters, chief officers, departments, and municipalities, we need to continuously update our incident action plans to meet changing political climates when it comes to public safety and specifically the requirement of sprinklers in Canada. As focused and organized as the fire service may seem across the country, when it comes to sprinklers, are we focusing cohesively? I will not be popular over this, but hey, when has leadership been about popularity? I think the Canadian fire service can do better. Period.

Over the years I have been in many meetings about the messages that we deliver to the public. Nothing seems to change. Continually fire chiefs believe that we have to be portrayed as the nice guys, but being nice guys is not working. Why are we not charging homeowners if we go to a fire and find smoke alarms not working? Why are homeowners not charged criminally if smoke alarms could have saved a child’s, or anybody’s life? Our tactics are not working, people continue to die, and for what? The price of a $20 smoke alarm?

Across Canada, associations must start seriously working together to reach a common goal to see residential sprinklers added to new-home construction. There needs to be national statistics for the fire service to gather the information needed to back code change. None of this will get done however if the Canadian fire service including firefighters, fire chiefs, fire marshals and fire commissioners, do not seriously begin working together to really make progress towards having zero fire fatalities yearly. It is time for the leaders in all levels of the fire service to #stepupanddemandchange


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
Dec. 24, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - Fire fighting, like most of life, is full of milestones. Along the way are the challenges you will encounter and how you deal with these experiences helps too mould you as the firefighter that you become over time. This starts the day you fill out the application form and continues until the day you get the axe – I mean the retirement-presentation axe, or if you have made really poor decisions I guess it could be THE axe.
Written by Rob Evans
Last Friday I was tasked by the chief of the household, my wife Jennifer, to pick up our two younger children, Nick and Michaela, at school. When I was met by Michaela’s aide – as a child with autism, Michaela has special needs – I was given the synopsis of her day and was told she had a great day baking brownies and took particular joy in handing them out and sharing with her classmates.
Written by Rob Evans
Nov. 6, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - This past weekend, everyone should have rolled their clocks back an hour (unless you are in Saskatchewan) to observe daylight savings time. On Friday, my dad and I took it a step further and turned the metaphorical clock back by going to watch an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators. The outing took me back to a time when I was a kid and we would go to Maple Leafs Gardens to watch Dave “Tiger” Williams take the fight to visitors on Carlton Street.

Sadly, over the weekend, turning back the clock could not help five people across the country who were killed as a result of residential fires in Sooke, B.C., Toronto and St. Catharines, Ont. The fatalities in Sooke occurred in a house without working smoke alarms. It’s 2014 and we are still responding to homes in Canada that do not have working smoke alarms. You all must feel as frustrated as I do when you read news articles about fire-related deaths and injuries every day on the Fire Fighting in Canada website.

“Change your clocks. Change your batteries.” It is not a new program, yet we still do not seem to get the message across. With the prevalence of social media, have we, as a fire service, forgotten about those who may not be plugged in?

The Alberta government announced changes to fire code last week, making it manditory to have sprinklers in seniors’ residences, which falls on the heels of the horrible fire in L’Ise-Verte, Que., last year. Ontario took similar measures in May last year. This is great, but other provinces have to follow suit before more of our vulnerable citizens fall victim to heat and smoke.

Of course, these code changes only affect those seniors living in care homes. In Canmore, Alta., the fire department, led by Fire Chief Todd Sikorsky, has teamed up with the local Canadian Tire this week to promote fire safety within the community’s aging population. The town, department and store are offering smoke-alarm battery replacement for free to seniors and people with mobility issues. Canmore Fire and Rescue staff will visit homes and all people have to do is make an appointment by calling the fire station. This is a great program being offered by the mountain town of about 12,000, and hopefully other departments across Canada will follow this lead to promote seniors safety in their communities.

Just as it was great, as a kid, to watch Maple Leafs take the fight to visitors of the Gardens, it is exciting to watch fire departments take the fight to fires that occur far too often across this country. But the consequences of losing this fight are far greater than adding to penalties in minutes (PIM) on the stats sheet. As we saw this past weekend, we need to win this fight to keep from adding to the death and injury stats – a far more important game.


Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof
Written by Rob Evans
Oct. 29, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - Oh Canada, our national anthem. I have to admit, in recent years, any time I’ve been at a sporting event, I stood and shuffled from foot to foot, mouthing the words. Last week was very different. I think I sung the anthem at least a half dozen times in my car, at work, at home.
Written by Rob Evans
Sept. 12, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - In Alberta there is a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Well, there was no change for us for the past 24 hours. A summer snowstorm (yes I said snow) hit on Tuesday and with it brought close to 30 cm of the heavy, white precipitation. The calls started Wednesday at 7 a.m. when Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) was paged out for a tree, weighted down by wet snow, arching on some power lines.
Written by Rob Evans
Sept. 5, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - Telling people where to go is what I do for a living as a dispatcher for the City of Calgary – call comes in, truck goes out; pretty simple, huh? Well, not so much at the start of the Labour Day long weekend. I did not take the actual call for a friend’s emergency last Friday night. I was on my break when the call for help came in.
Written by Rob Evans
Sept. 4, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - I first heard the unofficial mantra of the United States Marine Corps in the Clint Eastwood movie Heartbreak Ridge: the basic message is do not give up; work with what you have and be successful in reaching your goals.
Written by Rob Evans
Aug. 22, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - OK, so last week I led off Size-up by saying I was not into the many different challenges appearing on my Facebook feed. Since then, the ALS ice-bucket challenge has not just gone viral, it is now an all-out epidemic.
Written by Rob Evans
Aug. 14, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - My Facebook feed has been busy lately with a lot of “gratitude” challenges from friends, family and colleagues. I’m not much for replying to that type of thing, or cold-water challenges or whatever that daily challenge may be, except for the challenges of being a volunteer fire chief and busy father and husband.
Written by Rob Evans
June 13, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - It has been two months since I blogged last. In early April, I felt compelled to write about the passing of Jim Flaherty. I was fortunate to have met the former finance minister and came to respect the man who represented more people than just those in his Oshawa-Whitby riding, east of Toronto. I must admit that it was hard to write that day. Flaherty was a truly great Canadian and great supporter of the Canadian fire service and made an impression on me.
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