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January 28, 2014
By Rob Evans

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Jan. 28, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – It was just a few hours after I finished my last blog – about my kids, moose and being careful about what I say – that tragedy struck in L’Isle-Verte, Que.

Jan. 27, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – It was just a few hours after I finished my last blog – about my kids, moose and being careful about what I say – that tragedy struck in L’Isle-Verte, Que.

Now, as firefighters continue to search for the deceased in the frozen rubble of a nursing-home fire, a Global News reporter had said a police source told him there are concerns about firefighters’ actions on the scene during the initial response.

When I read this in a tweet from Global National Saturday afternoon, I had to force myself not to respond . Part of the responsibility of a fire-service leader is to know when and how to – or when not to – share your views.

The reporter said in the story that the police source told him arriving firefighters would not go into the unsprinklered side of the burning building.

“A confidential Quebec police source told Global News that firefighters refused to enter the east side of the seniors’ residence that was engulfed in flames because it was too dangerous,” the story says.

Later in the story, the reporter said police Lt. Michel Brunet – who, presumably, is not the source – told him police arrived first, went into the building three times and rescued people, but that by the time firefighters arrived the east side of the building was fully involved.

My immediate concern is not what a police source or uninformed reporter think – or misunderstand – about fire-department operations, it is with the firefighters on scene still chipping away at the ice looking for victims.

In light of the story last week from Lac-Megantic of a young firefighter who took his life after recovering the body of his ex-girlfriend from the horror this past summer, I believe the members who responded to Résidence du Havre will need our help, our support – not just from fellow firefighters but fellow first responders including police and paramedics.

It should not take tragic events such as the L’Isle-Verte fire to spur fire chiefs and community leaders into action. We need to step up now and start a dialogue in our departments about why we need to seek help when our members are having problems. It starts with us.

It seems as if this issue has been talked about for a long time, and it has, but some smaller departments still do not know how to deal Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM).

As Les Karpluk notes in his Under Control blog, today is Bell Canada Let’s Talk day. If you need someone to talk to, reach out – look after yourself. As Les writes, it is time that we are selfish and start looking after ourselves.

I would like to think that here at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services we are on the ball, but, admittedly, we drop it once in a while, and we did so most recently following a fatal car crash on Christmas Day, after which we learned that the victim was a former soldier who committed suicide by driving head-on into a tractor-trailer. We – no, I – fell into the trap of being too busy with my paying job and family to make sure we all had an opportunity to diffuse. We learned from just from talking to each other in the regular course of our activities that most of us on scene that day were in need of a debrief about the call. This won’t happen again – I promise my crews that.

Those of you who are not aware of CISM, please reach out to your provincial chiefs associations or a neighbouring department to find out more. You and your firefighters deserve to be taken care of properly, before a disaster such as Lac-Megantic or L’Isle-Verte happens in your community.

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 captain/EMT with RMES, and three children. Follow him on Twitter at @redwoodwoof


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