Notes from the MFCA
By Carey Fredericks
July 9, 2008 Lunenburg, N.S. – It’s been an interesting few days here at the annual convention of the Maritime Fire Chiefs Association.
At Monday’s opening ceremonies, just hours before the world famous Joggins fossil cliffs were declared a UNESCO World Heritage site, the mayor of Lunenburg (this historic fishing town is also a UNESCO heritage site) delivered a speech to the assembled chiefs.
Lawrence Mawhinney didn't just tee up the usual mayoral boilerplate "welcome to our fair town, please leave your money".
No, the veteran mayor – he's been mayor longer than most people in the audience have been in the fire service – spoke passionately about his town's historic designation and how the things that help define Lunenburg's unique character and architecture are made of wood.
And wooden things burn. And that makes having a dedicated, skilled fire department vitally important to protect Lunenburg’s UNESCO designation.
And more significantly to me, he spoke about how the fire department is the heart of the community. If you saw the show Lunenburg put on this week for the Maritime chiefs – from the spectacular weather (30 degrees and sunny, no fog!) that everyone wanted to take credit for, to the volunteers driving the courtesy shuttles – that would not surprise you.
Nor would it surprise you if you are in the fire service that in small-town Nova Scotia, just like in small town Canada everywhere else, the pulse beats strong and the heart that fires that pulse starts with the fire service.
I took advantage of the great weather on Tuesday to drive the old coastal highway outside Lunenburg and passed through many small villages, most with their own modest volunteer fire departments. En route to Chester though Martin's Cove and Gold River (I counted five volunteer fire departments during our short jaunt), it was tough to miss signs promoting the community-wide efforts to raise money for new pumpers.
It's a passion you couldn't hide even on the foggiest day Nova Scotia could muster.
(It was also tough to miss the Department of Natural Resources helicopter flying overhead, monitoring a brush fire in Sheet Harbour. Nova Scotians are skittish about brush fires after a major blaze in Porters Lake-Lake Echo a few weeks ago.)
The passion was also easily seen on the convention floor Tuesday in Billy Goldfeder, a chief from suburban Cincinnati but more famously known in the fire service for the cult-like following of his website, firefighterclosecalls.com. Goldfeder and his equally famous handlebar mustache held the convention in the palm of his hand for three hours Tuesday, telling stories of the fallen and reminding a 200 or so chiefs from Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island (along with a visiting chief from Nunavut) what is at stake every time duty calls.
Lunenburg has put on quite a show this week. And as always, it was and is about the people and their passion for the service. The organizers should be proud.