By Rob Evans
April 23, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - Last week was National Volunteer Week in Canada. The Alberta Fire Chiefs Association sent out an email asking departments to track the hours that members participated in the following: fire-related activities, hall maintenance, practices, training, and fire and rescue calls.
By Rob Evans
Now, I know that Redwood Meadows Emergency Services is not unique in Canada, or North America for that matter, in the amount of time our members give to the community every week.
But there I was on hump day – Wednesday – starting to count up the man-hours given by the guys and gals at 50 Station. Right off the start, we looked at the four officers I sent down to Indianapolis to bring back an immeasurable amount of knowledge from the conference. If you count an eight-hour day, that’s 32 hours, times seven days, which equals 224 hours just for them.
We had our regular, weekly training on Tuesday. Eleven of our firefighters attended the three-hour session this week, for a total of 33 hours.
Our crews responded nine calls for service from residents last week. The total amount of hours given on these responses was 49 hours.
On Sunday, our five-person duty crew put in 12 hours each of volunteer stand-by time at the station: 60 hours. One of our members worked out of the station all week (except Thursday, the slacker), giving us 32 hours of stand-by time while he worked at his paying job online.
We started late on Sunday, April 15, with an odor of natural gas along a street in town.
Monday we were called to a residence in town for carbon-monoxide alarms going off in the home just after midnight. We ended Monday with a small garage fire between Calgary and Redwood Meadows.
On Tuesday, we responded to an early morning single-vehicle collision.
Wednesday was slow to get going but, as always, we were ready to respond. At dinnertime Wednesday, a freak hail/snow/thunder storm covered the highway just outside of the station with about three inches of icy slush. And within five minutes of it starting, I came across a serious accident while on my way to get gas in my personal vehicle. Just for something different, I then spent three hours Wednesday evening, hosting our local WildRose Party candidate, and later attending a council meeting.
Thursday was another multiple-call day with two more medical co-responses with Alberta Health Services. The calls book-ended Thursday with the first coming shortly after 1 a.m. and the second coming just before midnight.
Friday was an uneventful day with the pager silent the entire day.
Saturday brought another five-person stand-by crew in for a 12-hour shift totaling 60 hours. The nice weather also brought our first collision involving a motorcycle for the year, and while the duty crew’s hours are not counted, another three members who weren’t on the schedule showed up for the call.
In total, Redwood Meadows Emergency Services members put in more than 412 hours last week. As of Sunday, we had run 99 calls for the year, well on our way to last year’s total of 390 and more than 18,445 man hours. That equates to an average of 527 hours given by each member of our department. It also translates into nine full-time equivalents.
As I stated at the beginning, I realize our department is not unique in Canada. I think every one of us should be proud of the service we provide to our communities. But I also think it is time that our cities, towns, villages, counties and provinces all start being educated about just how much the men and women of our organizations give. In Alberta, we have the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association to thank for gathering this information and taking it forward to the government.
Rob Evans is the fire chief 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. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.