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July 17, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – July 13 fell on a Friday this year and all the normal hype that precedes the day was out there. As always, the day came and went.

July 17, 2012
By Rob Evans

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July 17, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – July 13 fell on a Friday this year and all the normal hype that precedes the day was out there. As always, the day came and went.

But, this date means a little bit more for me and certainly some members of the Calgary fire department. It’s truly amazing how some things are just burned into your memory and can come back to you in the blink of an eye.

For me, 1992 was a big year. I got my first job at a daily newspaper, The Calgary Sun, as a copy runner. I joined Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES). I met my wife for the first time, although she probably doesn’t remember. July 13, 1992, was also another first for me: it was the first time that I had been in attendance at a fire-ground line-of-duty death.

I was standing in the middle of the street in front of the 17th Avenue Inn in Calgary when a crew brought the lifeless body of 38-year-old Calgary firefighter Morley James out of the burning hotel. As the Museum Society’s photographer, I was allowed access behind the tape to shoot fires in the city. The public information officer and I helped the crew back out onto the street until other firefighters arrived and we had stepped out of the way. I continued to take pictures that night but little did I know that the circumstances would affect my fire-ground photography. (James was the last Calgary firefighter to die in the line of duty; two men were later convicted of manslaughter in the deliberately set blaze.)

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I got to know the crew from 12 Station pretty well after that fire. Some of my pictures from that night and from the funeral are part of a memorial in the fire hall. I witnessed first hand what it is like to be a part of the larger brotherhood and was proud to be included. It was a couple of years later in my parents' backyard while talking to my wife (fiancée at that point) that I realized the fire had shaken me to the point where I hadn’t gone to any significant fires to take pictures since. It still bothers me. I spent the better part of Friday night rather subdued and chatting via Facebook with a firefighter who was part of the crew that night, he’s now the captain on A-shift at 12 Station and has always had time for me. Thanks, Scott.

At the time of the fire, I had been on RMES for only about four months. Taking pictures wasn’t the only thing I was doing at fire scenes. I was constantly a student of the strategies and tactics that were being used and have them stored in my mental database to this day. Not many of the RMES firefighters know this about me. I hope they understand why I might be a little overzealous when it comes to them taking this job seriously. Everybody has to take the time, outside of regular training sessions, to learn something new. Take an hour or two each week and read about the latest tactics. Find a topic that interests you and ask your training officers if you can instruct for them one week.

It is also with a great deal of sadness that on the anniversary of Morley’s death came the news out of Montreal that a young firefighter had been killed. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Director Serge Tremblay and his department as well as the family of 38-year-old Thierry Godfrind. Hopefully the fire service will learn from this tragedy and prevent similar accidents from happening again.

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.


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