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From The Editor: November 2010

The night before this column was due I spoke about our magazines and websites to the members of the Huron County Mutual Aid Association in Gorrie, Ont., a beautiful spot in Howick Township in midwestern Ontario.

November 1, 2010
By Laura King


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The night before this column was due I spoke about our magazines and websites to the members of the Huron County Mutual Aid Association in Gorrie, Ont., a beautiful spot in Howick Township in midwestern Ontario.
There are no restaurants in Gorrie, so when I offered by phone the week before to take Chief Bill Doig and Deputy Chief Dale Edgar out for dinner before the meeting they chuckled and arranged an alternative plan –  a lovely supper at the chief’s home, prepared by Chief Doig’s wife, Shirley, who had also that day cooked two enormous roasts of beef for the mutual-aid meeting – above and beyond, for sure!
The 50 or so firefighters and chief officers at the mutual-aid meeting were engaging and insightful when asked for feedback about Fire Fighting in Canada and I left with some great ideas for the magazine. Although I was the guest speaker for the evening, members of the Huron County Mutual-Aid Association taught me far more than I taught them. Stay with me – there’s a point to this.
Two days earlier, I had been in Rama, Ont., where Loveland-Symmes, Ohio, Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder gave his Not Everyone Goes Home presentation to about 500 firefighters from the Simcoe County Mutual-Aid Association.
If you’ve seen Goldfeder’s presentation you know that he talks about mutual aid in his neck of the woods and mentions several times that the departments in the Loveland-Symmes region send five – yes, five – chiefs to every incident at which there is smoke or fire. Each chief has a role – the first in becomes the incident commander, the second chief looks after accountability, the third arriving chief takes the Charlie side of the building, the fourth in looks after RIT and the last arriving chief is the safety officer. In Goldfeder’s words, there are no egos. If a chief from a nearby community happens to get to an incident in another area first, he becomes the incident commander.
Why is this relevant? Over dinner in Gorrie, I heard the story of the Gorrie Fire Department, its near demise and the gumption of those who fought to keep it. (See Station to Station on page 7.) The passion and commitment of the 23 volunteer firefighters and chief officers in Gorrie is abundantly obvious, even after a less-than-amicable split from their previous governing fire board and a sometimes strained relationship with the departments in the mutual-aid area as a result of amalgamation.
I’ve heard stories about mutual-aid partnerships that work well and those that don’t because some chiefs want to be the head honcho at every incident and don’t respect the training and abilities of chiefs in the surrounding mutual-aid communities.
Mutual aid is necessary in most parts of Canada. Doing mutual aid properly – with clearly outlined roles for all responders – is important. Leaving egos at home is critical.
They have the right attitude in Loveland-Symmes, Ohio, and in Gorrie, Ont. Do you?


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