By Rob Evans
Dec. 31, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Another year has come and gone. Where did the time go? As with many fire departments across the country, our time at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) has gone into responding to calls for service from our residents. Our busiest year ever culminated with 417 responses, with our firefighters putting in more than 19,000 hours in the community
By Rob Evans
Dec. 31, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Another year has come and gone.
Where did the time go? As with many fire departments across the country,
our time at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) has gone into
responding to calls for service from our residents. Our busiest year
ever culminated with 417 responses, with our firefighters putting in
more than 19,000 hours in the community.
More than 19,000 hours! This equals just over nine full-time equivalents
and one huge saving for our community. As much as we would like to pay
our firefighters, it is just not sustainable for our town of 1,150
people. Those 19,000 hours include training, stand-by shifts, tours,
camps, fire prevention talks – you name it and we did it during 2012.
What a great team of men and women on our department, and they deserve a
huge thank you. For our 36 members, this averages an amazing 527 hours
per person. For volunteers to qualify for new tax-break in Canada we
have to put in more than 250 hours. It’s early in the morning as I write
this, but I am confident that my math makes that less than half of what
RMES members have logged on average.
During the past year we went through some pretty major changes at RMES.
At the beginning of the year, long-time member Capt. Dave McPherson
decided to take more time to golf and ski when he retired after 30 years
on the department. Shortly after I arrived home from the Canadian
Association of Fire Chief’s government relations week in Ottawa in
March, Fire Chief Ed Bowen also retired after a long term with RMES.
Chief Bowen had been the only fire chief that Redwood Meadows had known
and after 34 years, I was appointed by council to be the next fire
Also during the first quarter of the year we ordered our fourth new
truck in three years, virtually replacing our entire fleet. The new
rescue from Pierce would replace a 1996 Road Rescue ambulance that was
refurbished and used for more than a decade by our crews. We were hoping
that the truck would last until the new one arrived but Murphy had a
say in it, and it died long before the truck even started production.
So, after two spare trucks (thanks to Wholesale Fire & Rescue), and
what seemed like forever, the new rescue was placed into service in
November. Wow! How did we last this long without a real rescue truck? We
did it because that is what firefighters do best. We make things work
to our advantage. Adapt and overcome . . . oops, that’s the Marines. But
you get my point. We did that for years in Redwood Meadows but we
turned a page in 2012 and no longer accept that for our members. If we
cannot pay our firefighters, the least we can do is equip them with the
best equipment possible. I have made this clear to our council and I
believe council members have listened to me. We have received new
trucks, new SCBA, new tools and new turnout gear, all within a span of
four years. It is important to me and to our firefighters and after our
Firefighters’ Association bi-annual ball in October, I think it is also
important to our residents. They helped to raise more than $64,000 to go
toward payment of that new rescue truck.
It would have been nice to be able to take the newest addition to our
fleet to the city of Airdrie for a parade thrown together for a sick
little boy, but we went for a two-for-one type of deal. Our bush buggy
and rapid response attended the parade for six-year-old Jayden Phaneuf
on the Saturday before Christmas. The little guy has been diagnosed with
terminal cancer and his big wish was to ride on a fire truck. The
members of the Irricana Fire Department caught wind of the request and
were going to take Jayden for a ride and out for lunch. On the way back
to the fire station they were to pass a line-up of fire trucks along one
of Irricana’s streets. However, on the day of the event, Jayden was in
too much pain to travel out of the house, so the parade came to him.
With the support of RCMP and Alberta sheriffs, who blocked
intersections, more than 20 fire trucks, ambulances and police vehicle
paraded by Jayden’s him with home waving from his bedroom window. Santa
brought him a fire truck full of gifts, a huge Christmas meal for the
family and other surprises as well. It was probably the proudest moment I
have had as a firefighter, seeing more than 60 emergency personnel
gathered together to make this boy’s wish come true.
The year ended on a tragic note for the fire service. A gunman ambushed
firefighters in New York State when they responded to reports of a fire
in Webster, just outside of Rochester. A sniper’s bullets killed two and
two more were injured as they arrived. Firefighters understand the
inherent danger in the jobs that we do, but how are we supposed to
prepare ourselves for this craziness? No matter how tuned in you are to
situational awareness, there is no possible way to be prepared for this
type of incident. Or is there? I guess time will tell.
One of the last things we do every year is hand out our awards just
prior to the Christmas break. This year RMES congratulates Allie Hunter,
recipient of the Probationary Firefighter of the Year award, Matt
Badmington as Firefighter of the Year, Capt./EMT Jennifer Evans for
receiving her second community service award, and Trevor Korthius
deserves a round of applause for his hard work around the department as
the recipient of the inaugural Fire Chief’s award. Thanks to everyone
across North America who has helped me become a better leader and, in
turn, has helped our department. Have a safe and happy new year.
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
firefighter/EMT with RMES, and three children.