Fire Fighting in Canada

Comment: The longest call

November 2, 2020 
By Laura Aiken

Canada wide, fire chiefs have been united by having been all needed on the same call — the pandemic call — starting in March. In the June edition of Fire Fighting in Canada, Fire Chief Tom DeSorcy asked in the Volunteer Vision column: “Was there ever a time you considered you’d be on the same call as every other fire chief in Canada?”

Every fire chief sure did jump on the same call together in March and it is turning into a very long call. This call, the nation’s longest lasting call, makes the possibility of burnout for the fire chiefs leading their crews and communities through this emergency very real.

With meetings, paperwork and everchanging protocols that need to be communicated, autumn has brought all the chaos of spiking cases back to the fore for many, albeit with all the preparation of March in place. But all the readiness in the world doesn’t mean anybody is any less sick and tired of dealing with COVID-19.

On page 15, naturopathic doctor Elias Markou writes about burnout for his Well-Being column. He notes that in 2019 the World Health Organization (WHO) made the landmark decision to classify burnout as an occupational phenomenon. Burnout comes on slowly, quite insidiously and one can be so busy giving of themselves in the required capacity that the self almost becomes an abstract concept. There are no simplistic solutions when the demands are so real, so needed and so relentless. What is a fire chief to do when the nation’s longest call has no real end in sight? That is a question one can only answer for themselves, but articles like Markou’s highlight the importance of ensuring you are not headed for a life-altering case of burnout.

Some days it’s still hard to believe that 2020 has turned the world upside-down and inside-out. One can only hope 2021 brings the beginnings of the reprieve we all are hoping for. While the vast majority of covid’s impacts are grim, the fire service’s longest call has brought opportunities for positive change that many fire chiefs have made and their departments are all the better for it. Change often makes visible a gift we didn’t see coming — new choices.

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