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March 6, 2013
By Rob Evans

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March 6, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Already it's two months into 2013 and this year is turning out to be what seems to be one of the most tragic in recent memory for fire deaths in Canada. Towards the end of January, I wrote that the Canadian fire service needs to take a stronger stance on fire safety and I will continue to talk about it: this topic needs to continue and it needs to reach all of our residents and become water-cooler subject matter, or more people will die. 

March 6, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – Already it's two months into
2013 and this year is turning out to be what seems to be one of the most
tragic in recent memory for fire deaths in Canada. Towards the end of
January, I wrote that the Canadian fire service needs to take a stronger
stance on fire safety and I will continue to talk about it: this topic
needs to continue and it needs to reach all of our residents and become
water-cooler subject matter, or more people will die.

The Calgary Fire Department has had two fire deaths this year. In the
latest house fire, the flames had a hold on the entire building before
crews were even dispatched. A second alarm was called before crews
arrived because of the amount of smoke that was coming from the building
while trucks were still en route. Firefighters took a defensive stand
and the next day, after it was safe for crews to search the building,
they found a body in the basement of the home. Monday night, crews went
door to door, handing out smoke alarms and pamphlets. Now, I know the
Calgary department has an excellent community services section and
public education is second to none, and kudos to Chief Bruce Burrell and
his crews, but it’s too bad that, for whatever causes, fires are still
occurring and people are being killed and injured throughout the
country.

Since the beginning of the year, 19 people in Ontario have suffered a
fire death. That is way too many, period. But these fire deaths have not
been limited to any one area of Canada with deaths from Victoria, B.C.,
to De Grau, N.L. The Feb. 16 fire in Victoria took the lives of three
people in their 20s and, due to the extent of the damage to the
structure, investigators were unable to determine a cause. It does not
matter. In Canada in 2013 people should not be dying in fires. It is
that simple. Or is it?

At the end of February, it was determined that a residence in Windsor,
Ont., where a 30-year-old was killed in a blaze, did not have working
smoke alarms. Shortly afterwards, CBC News reported that out of 1,345
dwellings visited by Windsor Fire and Rescue Services in 2011, 43 per
cent did not comply with the current smoke-alarm laws. What is it going
to take to get it through to our residents that they will die if their
smoke alarms are not operable? We are lucky in Redwood Meadows, Alta.,
that the town has never had a fire death. I’m knocking very hard on a
wooden desk while I'm writing this. I hope we never have a fire death
and I intend to do everything that I can to make sure we never
experience that type of tragedy. Admittedly, it may be easier for us to
get the message out as there are only 350 homes in our community.

Last week, my oldest son started his foray into the fire service when he
attended the orientation for the Calgary Fire Department cadet program.
I hope my son never sees how fire fatalities and injuries can affect a
family and responders. But I know that if he continues his journey into
our chosen field, that he eventually will.

That being said, Wednesday, his orientation day, was a proud moment for
me. Seeing him interact with his fellow cadets filled me with pride that
I just cannot describe – even more than watching him on the football or
rugby fields. Graduation day is going to be tough next summer when I
see him with Chief Burrell at the graduation ceremony, but I won’t miss
it for the world. So far, I have kept it pretty quiet that his dad is a
fire chief but I think on that day I will be in my No. 1s. And maybe by
then, the Canadian fire service will be winning the battle on fire
deaths. We can only hope so.

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. Follow him on Twitter at
@redwoodwoof.


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