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May 28, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – During my last night shift at Public Safety Communications in Calgary last Thursday, I was sitting at EMS dispatch watching the clock around 4 a.m., with less than two hours to go in my shift. I was hoping that my upcoming days off would be quiet, even though I was scheduled to be our on duty officer for the weekend. Wanting to put the final touches on my presentation for the Alberta Fire Chiefs conference, I had no idea that the weekend would be so busy.

May 28, 2013
By Rob Evans

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May 28, 2013, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – During my last night shift at Public Safety Communications in Calgary last Thursday, I was sitting at EMS dispatch watching the clock around 4 a.m., with less than two hours to go in my shift. I was hoping that my upcoming days off would be quiet, even though I was scheduled to be our on duty officer for the weekend. Wanting to put the final touches on my presentation for the Alberta Fire Chiefs conference, I had no idea that the weekend would be so busy.

Now of course, everybody knows that the “Q” word is not to be spoken, almost like the evil Lord Voldemort of Harry Potter fame. Having never bought into the superstition of saying – or, rather, not saying – the word, let alone thinking it, I did not give it a second thought. The quiet lasted for about an hour after getting home. We were called out for a big transformer that was on fire at a local sour-gas compressor station. Luckily, the power company was just ahead of us and had the power shut down pretty quickly and knock-down occurred shortly afterwards. We returned to the station and after cleaning up the engine, re-decking the speedlays, and filling the foam tank, we were ready to go again.

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Rob's first call of the weekend was for a big transformer that was on fire at a local sour-gas compressor station.
Photos by Rob Evans.

Well, almost immediately. We were on the go again when we were dispatched to the Trans-Canada Highway for a tractor-trailer rollover. Responding with Rocky View County’s Springbank station, we arrived to a truck carrying produce that had indeed ended up on its side while taking an off-ramp. The driver was already in the care of paramedics and the truck was off of the roadway, so after initial size up and making sure there were no hazards, we cleared the scene. Which was a good thing, because it had started to pour rain.

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Rob's second call of the weekend was for a tractor-trailer that had rolled over. The driver of the truck, which was carrying produce, was already in the care of paramedics when RMES arrived.

We had just backed into the station when a caller from the town office next door to the fire hall asked us to come over for a gas leak. It was a speedy response, to say the least, as members just walked along the pathway to investigate the complaint. A small butane bottle had fallen from a shelf and started leaking. This was mitigated without incident and I was finally ready to head to bed. It was about 1 in the afternoon when I finally laid down and then slept until about 5. Needless to say, my entire first day off was shot.

That night I was in the middle of a restless sleep when, guess what? The pager went off. It was shortly after 5 in the morning. We were summoned for a woman screaming down by the river. (Yeah, I thought of Chris Farley’s SNL character, too. Black humour keeps us sane.) It turned out to be a medical co-response with Alberta Health Services paramedics for a cold exposure. A person had gotten lost and spent the night along a very wet riverbank. After extricating the patient via a Stokes stretcher, our crews returned to the station. After the necessary paperwork was completed I returned home, watched some news and put my head down for a couple more hours. I was out of the house by 12:30 and on my way into Calgary to buy some barbecue supplies for the family get-together we were going to have at the station prior to taking photos for our fund-raising calendar – something I had been going to do the previous day. I also needed to pick up my dress uniform for the Alberta chiefs show. Turning onto Highway 8, I immediately noticed a very large, black plume of smoke at almost the same time I heard dispatch sending out Rocky View County’s Elbow Valley station. I did not hear the nature of the call but decided to get Redwood Meadows Emergency Services’ (RMES) engine on the way as well. I called on the radio and interrupted the hazardous materials operations (NFPA 472) course in which our crews were participating. By the time they had the truck staffed and ready to roll, dispatch was sending out our tones for what ended up being a fatal collision between an SUV and a tractor-trailer. The collision had ripped open the saddle tanks on the truck and the smoke I had seen was coming from the fully involved cab. After arriving in my personal vehicle, I determined that the SUV driver, and sole occupant, was beyond any help. RMES crews worked with Elbow Valley to extinguish the truck fire and, when requested by the RCMP, extricated the SUV driver. Everyone returned to the station, cleaned up and enjoyed our family BBQ and photo shoot.

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While running some errands, Rob noticed smoke coming from this burning truck and decided to mobilize his crews before they got the call.

During the previous week’s Tuesday training our crews had learned about stabilization techniques and tools to use while carrying out such duties. It seems that last weekend was designed to work around that training as Sunday ended off with yet another serious crash. Three vehicles had collided on a busy county road and within the next hour, 10 people had been assessed, with eight being transported to hospital. Four adults and four children were taken to Calgary hospitals by ground ambulance and STARS air ambulance. The co-operation among paramedics, RCMP, Rocky View Fire Services and our own crews was incredible to see. Two of the children and two adults had to be extricated by fire crews from a mini-van involved that had flipped onto its side and was then hit by a third vehicle. By the time we left the scene, word from a family friend was that all were okay, three of the kids had already been release and the fourth was being held for observation.

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It was a nice update to get while helping the RCMP with a road closure on quiet Springbank Road. That may be the last time you hear me utter that word for a while though.

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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