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June 30, 2014, Port Severn, Ont. - A 4:00 am wakeup call for a structure fire is definitely what I would call a rude awakening.

June 30, 2014 
By Jennifer Grigg

Going from a REM state to an adrenaline dump in seven seconds tends to make one’s heart beat well above the normal range. You suddenly find yourself standing beside your bed in a bit of a fog because your body is still technically asleep and you’re trying to dress as fast as you can, usually with clothes off the floor (if you’re my husband) or that were carefully placed on the chair the night before (if you’re me). Whether your clothes are on inside out or upside down is pretty much irrelevant at this point, you just hope that you’re covered for when that bunker gear comes off. And let’s not forget that trip to the bathroom. Cannot leave the house without that because you have NO idea when you’ll have the opportunity to go again.

And don’t even get me started on the temperature – 20 degrees to start the call and 28 degrees by the time we got back to the hall.

However, perspective is everything. I’m sure that my wakeup call was nothing compared to the people occupying the trailer at the time. I can only imagine how completely terrifying it was to awaken to a glow in the ceiling – of a trailer nonetheless. Not a lot of time to escape from a structure like that. Fortunately, everyone were all able to get out safely.

And thank goodness they were out when we arrived on scene (which could not have been a quicker response since it was about a three minute drive from our station) because it was fully involved, and there were only three of us initially.


My husband took command, had the truck in pump gear, and pulled the first line while I and another firefighter packed up. (I still have a hard time with not being able to pack up while en route; it seems so time consuming to have to wait until we get on scene. Although, as stated in a previous blog, I do understand why, and it also has to do with the way our packs are secured in the seats in our new pumper.)

By the time we were on the nozzle, he was on the pump panel with the 38 millimetre charged and ready to go. Exposures and water supply were the two main concerns. I wanted to get on another line right off the hop, but establishing the water supply was priority for the IC. There’s that perspective thing again. We knew there was water beside us because there was a small channel but we didn’t have the manpower to set up a pump, and didn’t know how much water was there. When our IC heard our tanker responding (with one person), he knew the truck would be there momentarily and he’d have secured a water supply.

With the tanker now feeding the pumper, we still had just four firefighters on scene, and one was committed to the tanker.

As my partner and I fought to protect the exposures (two trailers on either side of the fully involved one, and two sheds) and simultaneously knock down the fire, we could hear propane tanks on the deck venting in close proximity to us. I prayed that the tanks could vent faster than they were heating up and that they wouldn’t explode. Apparently somebody was listening.

The extreme heat, the sounds, the adrenaline, the two of us with one hose and no help in sight (at that moment). It was a strange, surreal place to be. Yet in the midst of chaos, we stay calm. Maybe it’s like being in the eye of the storm.

OK, maybe that was a bit melodramatic, but I’d be willing to bet that you have all had moments like that once or twice in your firefighting careers, because those moments are what draw us in like fireflies to the light. Wait, are fireflies even attracted to light? OK, so perhaps that wasn’t a great analogy, and maybe the fact that I’ve been up since 4 and it’s 30-something degrees out here on my deck in the shade, isn’t helping my cognitive abilities.

We ended up with eight firefighters on scene (two of whom were running the tankers) from two stations. I’m very thankful that the other two trailers didn’t catch fire, and that we were able to do a respectable job with the manpower that we had.

Jennifer Mabee-Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of
Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. E-mail her at and follow her on Twitter at @jenmabee

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