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August 27, 2012
By Rob Evans

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Aug. 27, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Never judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes. We have all heard this at one time or another, but it really hit home for a group of Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) firefighters who had the privilege of helping out at a summer camp recently. Not that our staff would ever judge anyone who has suffered a burn injury, but to see the strength and courage exhibited by these kids was just mind-boggling.

Aug. 27, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Never judge people until you have walked a mile in their shoes. We have all heard this at one time or another, but it really hit home for a group of Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) firefighters who had the privilege of helping out at a summer camp recently. Not that our staff would ever judge anyone who has suffered a burn injury, but to see the strength and courage exhibited by these kids was just mind-boggling.

For the past couple of years, our department has helped out with a camp for kids with burn injuries that takes place in our response area in the east side of beautiful Kananaskis Country, located west of Calgary. More than 600 children between the ages of seven and 17 from Alberta and Western Canada have attended the camp since it started. The camp, managed by the Edmonton Firefighters Burn Treatment Society, is meant to provide an environment in which no one is teased, stared at or made fun of; according to the web site, “it is a place where a young burn survivor can just be a kid.”

Our crews go out to the camp on the last day and have lunch with the kids. Then we set up our portable tanks and trucks for the huge water fight. This year, the weather was great and when the water started to flow, it was bright and sunny and hovering around 27 C. At the beginning, not everyone appeared to be having a good time though. One little guy, with considerable scarring around his face, approached RMES Capt./EMT Jennifer Evans while she was reloading her water gun. He stated that nobody ever got him wet, and that the adults seemed scared to soak him. Well, not wanting to have him feel left out, Jennifer quickly drenched him with her super soaker. The game was on with him from that point on. This is what the crews love about going out to the burn camp: bringing back a sense of normalcy for these kids and having them act like kids again – the camp attendees, not the firefighters.

Who am I kidding? All firefighters still have a little bit of kid left in them, especially when it comes to water fights. So those who did not get wet enough at the burn camp had another chance a couple of days later when the local day camp came to the station for an afternoon. Again, a dump tank was set up for the kids to have a make-shift pool and we had a couple of lines laid out for the kids to see the pumper at work. The chief happened to stay dry inside the enclosed pump panel though – don’t know how that happened! I do know how one of our rookies did get wet though, thanks to the hand line we had laid out. Oh, and maybe it helped to be thrown into the dump tank, too.

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Firefighter Chad Gibson teaches rookie Allie Hunter all about nozzles. Unfortunately, Captain/EMT Gary Robertson had to be necessary collateral damage during the lesson.
Photo by Rob Evans.

Everyone in our profession hopes to never have to walk in the shoes of burn-injured people, least of all kids. But after the week of water fights that our team had, we may just have to borrow a pair or two while our boots dry out. What a great way to end a busy summer.

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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