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Comment: June 2011


May 18, 2011
By Laura King


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Late last year in northern Lynn Lake, Man., a 20-month-old toddler died in a house fire on a First Nations reserve. There were 13 people living in the home and everyone but the toddler got out safely, which, as you can imagine, was little consolation to anyone at the time.

Late last year in northern Lynn Lake, Man., a 20-month-old toddler died in a house fire on a First Nations reserve. There were 13 people living in the home and everyone but the toddler got out safely, which, as you can imagine, was little consolation to anyone at the time.

The community was devastated by the loss.

Lynn Lake firefighter James Lindsay, a frequent department spokesman, was one of many responders that cold day and the loss of the toddler was emotionally crippling to the department.

The department has just four volunteer firefighters and two volunteer EMT responders. It carries out its mandate to serve the people of the community with aging equipment and little opportunity for outside training, but with a passion for service that is familiar to every fire service in Canada.

In e-mail conversations after the December fire, Lindsay told me of the heartache in the community over the loss of the young toddler, and of the devastating effect on the department.

On April 21, shortly before we went to press with this issue of Fire Fighting in Canada, there was another house fire in Lynn Lake.

This time, the result inspired, motivated and revitalized the department. The community had every reason to be proud of its department, and a sharp-eyed RCMP officer. That the Mountie spotted the fire at 2 a.m. was just the first miracle that spring morning. The second miracle was that the fire department’s quick response contained the blaze to a first-floor bedroom. Two adults and six children escaped, shaken, but unharmed.

Lynn Lake is a place where I would guess that most of the time, life rolls by as a matter of routine and it’s probably easy to pick the really good days from the really bad one. And, still aching from for the tragedy before Christmas, April 21 was a stand-up-and-cheer day for the community, for Fire Chief Mark Reimer, and for the fire and police services.

Too often, only the tragedies make headlines. The successes defined by a short sentence in a local news story – “all occupants of the dwelling escaped safely” – don’t do justice to the year-round commitment and effort of small fire departments.

And in that regard, maybe there’s nothing special about the Lynn Lake Volunteer Fire Department. But I’m guessing the residents of Lynn Lake would argue otherwise.

*    *    *

Our cover story on page 10 dives into the bureaucratic side of the fire service – mandatory retirement. Like so many legislative issues in the fire service, this one seems to be smouldering in Ontario, but with clear implications for the rest of the country.

The fire service, like the rest of Canadian society, is aging as boomers move toward Freedom 55. But as our story explains, the challenges facing the fire service on this topic are complex.


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