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Aug. 7, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Years ago, while growing up in southern Ontario, I remember spending some of my summer days walking around Canada’s Wonderland. My friends and I would head straight for the rollercoasters to start the days off and have a blast trying to outdo each other.

August 7, 2012
By Rob Evans

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Aug. 7, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Years ago, while growing up in southern Ontario, I remember spending some of my summer days walking around Canada’s Wonderland. My friends and I would head straight for the rollercoasters to start the days off and have a blast trying to outdo each other.

Working in emergency services certainly has its parallels with riding the thrill rides. As your pager goes off, the cars leave the loading area. Climbing that first big hill the anticipation builds just as it does as the trucks roll out of the station on their way to the call. And then the ups and downs begin. With the good, we all have to be able to take the bad. Last week was filled with those exhilarating highs and stomach-jarring lows.

Watching our team of firefighters get through the busiest month in our 34-year history was one of the biggest highs of the year. I am always proud of the family at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) but watching everyone work as hard as they did that final week of July and battle through more than 40 calls in nine days was one of the greatest highs ever.

Sadly, the week began with the news that two retired Calgary Fire Department (CFD) members had been taken from us, both from cancer. George Forster, 75, was a retired division chief who had been battling prostate cancer for years after his retirement. Just two days later, the past fire chief Wayne Morris, 66, succumbed to his battle with colon cancer. Chief Morris was one of the most popular and well-liked leaders of the CFD in recent memory and his loss will be felt for years to come. Thoughts and prayers from RMES go out to both men’s families, and to the members of the CFD.

Wednesday morning I received an email from CAFC administrator Vicky Roper advising that my application for Chief Fire Officer (CFO) had been approved. During my firefighting career I would have to say this is the biggest high for me, personally. Like all successful candidates, I have worked hard to get to this level but I would be remiss if I didn’t thank everyone who has helped me along the way. RMES past Fire Chief Ed Bowen mentored me a lot while I was deputy chief for the past eight years. Peer and father-in-law George Low, who is a deputy chief with RMES, has helped me grow in many ways. Friends like Elkford, B.C., Fire Chief Bernie Van Tighem, Calgary Assistant Deputy Chief Ken McMullen, Grand Falls-Windsor, N.L., Fire Chief Vince McKenzie, Prince Albert, Sask., Fire Chief Les Karpluk and CAFC president Rob Simonds and many others with whom I have worked over the past five years have all played a part in my personal and professional growth. And if it were not for the support of the firefighters within RMES I would not have such a great team to lead. Thank you.

The high continued Thursday afternoon when my pre-verbal autistic six-year-old daughter brought me a picture symbol of a plate with food on it and said, “Supper, hungry.” For those who do not understand autism and how severe my daughter’s communication disability is, this was such a breakthrough. Jenn and I immediately started getting her food! I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t tear up just a little bit.

By early Thursday evening the tears were again being tested as I was witness to one of the worst calls of the year. A young man was killed when the pickup truck he was driving crossed the centerline and collided head-on with a heavy tow truck. The scene was one of the more violent crashes that I have attended in some time. We arrived with our rescue shortly after paramedics had declared the driver deceased. Like many small communities, one of the biggest fears in these circumstances is finding out that you know patient. A couple of us were sure that we knew him from the description and had to make sure that we did not. It turns out we were not familiar with him but when I returned home found out that my oldest son had gone to school with him. For my son, this was the second schoolmate to have been killed on the same highway in just three days.

It may be hard to believe that there could be a rebound from this low but it came this morning while my son, my wife and I were watching the Olympics. We were all busy on social media with either MacBooks or iPhones and he brought over a tweet that he was going to send to our MLA. The tweet read simply, “Mr. Bruce McAllister two more deaths in the past three days. Highway 8 needs to be twinned.” This, from a 15-year-old who is mature beyond his years. Mr. McAllister responded within minutes to his tweet. A quick response by local representation that shows my son that you don’t have to be loud or rude to be heard, and that ordinary people can help to make a difference. It may not actually be a huge high after such a tremendous low but it certainly brought me back to the station.

Rob Evans is the chief fire officer 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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