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Editor’s blog


September 20, 2012
By Laura King


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Sept. 20, 2012, Toronto – Once again, we resume regular blogging . . .

The week ahead promises to be a whirlwind with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference (Fire-Rescue Canada) in St. John’s, N.L., followed immediately by our Firefighter Training Day/Career Expo in Waterloo, Ont., next weekend – followed by the OPFFA labour-relations conference in Niagara Falls, an emergency preparedness seminar in Burlington, Ont., a mock disaster exercise in mid-October, Firefighters Speak Up (featuring Billy Goldfeder) in late October and the Fire Service Women Ontario conference in early November.

Sept. 20, 2012, Toronto – Once again, we resume regular blogging . . .

The week ahead promises to be a whirlwind with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs conference (Fire-Rescue Canada) in St. John’s, N.L., followed immediately by our Firefighter Training Day/Career Expo in Waterloo, Ont., next weekend – followed by the OPFFA labour-relations conference in Niagara Falls, an emergency preparedness seminar in Burlington, Ont., a mock disaster exercise in mid-October, Firefighters Speak Up (featuring Billy Goldfeder) in late October and the Fire Service Women Ontario conference in early November.

Our goal is to get to all of these events – and then some – so we can let readers know what’s going on, network, and find story ideas and writers.

Speaking of which, Fire Fighting in Canada and Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly will be well represented in St. John’s by Volunteer Vision columnists Vince MacKenzie and Tom DeSorcy, blogger, writer and photographer Rob Evans, Between Alarms columnist AJ George, Les Karpluk and Lyle Quan, who write Leadership Forum and Cornerstone, Kevin Foster – our new Straight Talk columnist – and regular contributor Len Garis.

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Watch our Twitter feed (@fireincanada) and Facebook pages (Fire Fighting in Canada and Firehall.com) starting bright and early tomorrow morning – flight time is 6:55 a.m., ugh! – for highlights.

One sure highlight of this year’s Fire-Rescue Canada will be the election of second vice-president, for which there are three extremely able candidates: Prince Albert, Sask., Chief Les Karpluk, Deputy Chief Len McCharles of Calgary, and Chief Denis Pilon of Swift Current, Sask.

Les, of course, has been writing for Fire Fighting in Canada for some time and has headed the CAFC’s chief officer program.

I met and had a great chat with Len two weeks ago in Ottawa at the Canadian Fallen Firefighter Foundation dinner but I would have known him anywhere after our stories (and photos) on the Slave Lake wildfire, during which Len was the incident commander.

And Denis is a former volunteer chief who has been active in the CAFC since 1985.

All three candidates have made their pitches via e-blasts to the CAFC membership and all three have exceptional pedigrees and passion for improving the fire service.

I don’t get to vote. That’s probably a good thing!

With the CAFC road trip on the horizon and deadlines looming, there was little time to blog after the Sept. 8-9 weekend in Ottawa for the unveiling of the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation monument.

It, too, was a whirlwind – a five-hour drive to Ottawa in torrential rain on Saturday with FFIC sales manager Catherine Connolly, the CFFF dinner Saturday night, the unveiling of the impressive monument and memorial service Sunday morning, and a trip back down Highway 401 Sunday evening.

I was overwhelmed by the numbers of firefighters from coast to coast to coast who came to Ottawa – many for the first time – for the unveiling, and it was very much an old-home week at the Highlander Pub in Ottawa’s Byward Market Saturday night with the pipes and drums interspersed with the fabulous bar band/duo and the typical firefighter choir, which easily drowned out the band. It was very cool to be able to introduce firefighters from Nova Scotia who I’ve met through FDIC Atlantic to those from northern Alberta, who we’ve come to know through Firefighters 1st. The former chief of TFS and the Ontario fire marshal were among the hundreds jammed into The Highlander who enjoyed the music and camaraderie – albeit less vocally than many others!

Sunday’s service – under clear skies after the deluge on Saturday – was beautifully executed. I couldn’t compete with the professional photographers on hand from the local papers with their top-notch equipment, so I relied on the good graces of some contacts and made my way to the front of the memorial site to get photos of the presentations of the helmets to the families of the fallen firefighters who were being honoured.

We covered extensively the incident in Listowel, Ont., at which Kenneth Rea and Ray Walter lost their lives and I wanted to honour their memories by preserving the helmet and plaque presentations for their families. We also covered the funeral of Enderby, B.C., firefighter Daniel Botkin, who died in an explosion during overhaul after a fire. Among the most touching moments was the presentation of the helmet and plaque to Botkin’s young widow, when several of his buddies, in black shirts and pink ties, stepped forward to support the family. We also wrote about Ken Day, the chief in LaSalle, Ont., in our March 2012 issue. As was the case with several others whose names were added to the monument, Ken lost a battle with cancer and wanted to make sure others are well educated about firefighter health and wellness. We’re going to do everything we can to get that message across.

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The names of the fallen firefighters from Listowell on the memorial wall.
Photo by Laura King.
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The family of LaSalle, Ont., Fire Chief Ken Day, who died of work-related illness in July 2011 at just 47.
Photo by Laura King.
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Daniel Botkin's friends wear pink ties in honour of their fallen brother.
Photo by Laura King.

Lastly, before the packing commences – a challenge if ever there was one to pack for seven days/six nights and everything from a ride-along with the St. John’s Regional Fire Department on Saturday to a formal dinner Wednesday night and a kitchen party in between! – just a footnote on Meaford.

You’ll all remember that the Ontario Ministry of Labour laid six charges against Meaford and its fire department after two firefighters were injured during a search of Reeds Restaurant in September 2009. Five of the six charges were withdrawn or dismissed; after a brief trial, the sixth charge was dismissed by Justice of the Peace Thomas Stinson in a ruling released on Aug. 7.

The MOL had 30 days to appeal; that date came and went in early September – three years after the incident – and was celebrated in Meaford, a weight lifted off the collective shoulders of the volunteers who comprise the Meaford & District Fire Department.

Three years. Three very long years for the firefighters in Meaford. We’ll bring you more on this after the CAFC conference, from a lengthy discussion with defence lawyer Norm Keith and others.

Meantime, we’ll keep you posed from The Rock!


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