Comment: September 2018
By Grant Cameron
Smoke had filled the building. Inside, it was dark, I recall, and oppressively hot. The bulky firefighting equipment I wore was heavy, very heavy, especially the helmet.
It was difficult to walk. I crawled up a flight of stairs, feeling my way to the top. I was in a smokehouse, courtesy of some firefighter friends.
Find someone trapped in the house and help get them out. They told me the smoke wasn’t real. They told me to remember it was all a drill. They told me not to panic.
They didn’t tell me the bell on my self-contained breathing apparatus would go off, signaling I had only a few minutes to get out of the building. Panic set in. I had to get low, find my way back to the stairs, then feel my way out of the building.
I was disoriented and unprepared, yet strangely pumped. I saw the exit and stumbled through the doorway. What a relief. Outside, firefighters helped remove my gear.
This was several years ago, but it was an experience I will never forget. It made me appreciate the difficult work that firefighters do.
As a journalist, I covered a lot of fires and saw firefighters take care of business, often under very difficult circumstances. But it was always from a distance. The smokehouse exercise helped me get a close-up look at what firefighters face on a daily basis, albeit in a controlled setting.
The passion, professionalism and dedication that firefighters bring to the job is remarkable.
Those same traits were on display again recently at the 104th Maritime Fire Chiefs Association conference in Moncton, N.B.
It was my inauguration as editor of Firefighting in Canada and I can say without doubt that those at the conference were passionate about their job. They came from all over Atlantic Canada. It was certainly an impressive conference. The folks in New Brunswick certainly put on an informative event.
There were plenty of speakers. One led a session on how incident commanders can rally the troops at a blaze. There was also a trade show, with exhibitor displays and products. Those at the show could learn about new processes, techniques and best practices. Our own Becky Atkinson, who runs the Firehall Bookstore, also had a booth at the event.
It was a remarkable conference, to say the least.
Events such as these are an important part of the firefighting community. They’re a great way for chiefs, commanders and firefighters to get together, network and learn more about the profession.
I, for one, am looking forward to attending more of these conferences, speaking with chiefs and firefighters and learning about the industry. Perhaps I’ll even brave another smokehouse.