www.firefightingincanada.com

Features Blogs Size-up
Size-up


February 4, 2014
By Rob Evans

Topics

Feb. 4, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – It’s GROUNDHOG DAY! OK, by the time you read this it won’t be, but as the pager was waking me from my hibernation on Sunday morning for a medical co-response, Wiarton Willie, Balzac Billy, Puxatawney Phil and Schubenacadie Sam had all given their forecasts for the remaining lifespan of the winter season.

Feb. 4, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – It’s GROUNDHOG DAY! OK, by the time you read this it won’t be, but as the pager was waking me from my hibernation on Sunday morning for a medical co-response, Wiarton Willie, Balzac Billy, Puxatawney Phil and Schubenacadie Sam had all given their forecasts for the remaining lifespan of the winter season.

For these parts, Balzac Billy says there will be an early spring and maybe with that will come a slow snow melt and lowered flooding possibility. Good thing – in June we had our share of the fast flowing Elbow River for some time to come.

On the early morning of June 21, I was awoken with the call that the protective berm around the Townsite had finally given in to the torrent rushing by. We were being told to “bug out” by the mayor and with that, my wife Jennifer and I quickly loaded the kids into the van and while she took them up to the local school, I headed to the station. The crews, who had been trying to catch a few winks, were now wide awake and loading everything they could into all of the trucks and our support trailer. I helped to finish loading some equipment and instructed the team where to muster, and they were gone. I was left alone at the station, doors wide open and only the sound of the river, which is more than a kilometer away. I closed the overhead doors and walked into my office to check once more that everything I needed had been loaded into my car. I sat down – I had to. To say that the moment was a little bit overwhelming is an understatement.

The Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) uniform is the only one I have ever worn as a firefighter. I thought about how much the fire hall has meant over the years to so many of our members and the community. The station was named after one of our founding members, the late Mike Magnusson. A tree is planted in our front yard to recognize our first female captain, the late Brenda Bolen. Brenda was one of the officers who recommended I become a lieutenant back in 1996. The office I was sitting in, and the hose tower, had been built by our former chief, Ed Bowen, and former captain, Dave McPherson. I thought about how it was not just a building – it was our home.

We ran RMES out of the school for the next three days but we were lucky – we were able to return to our home. The firefighters in Mount Albert, Ont., woke up on their Groundhog Day to a scene that was unreal. Their station – their home – was fully involved in fire. In the coming days, firefighters from the station, and those who have served in the past, will reflect. They will think about the start of their firefighting careers, milestones that have been reached and support they have found in the confines of the building. It is time for the community to rally behind its firefighters; this is the time when they need the townspeople’s support, as well as their brothers and sisters from across the country and North America, if the tweets I have read are any indication.

Some may replay their actions immediately prior to the fire over and over again, like in the movie Groundhog Day. And until a cause is determined, there is nothing that can be said to ease those emotions. But I’m confident the firefighters in Mount Albert will rally. And with the strong foundation of members and the community, the firefighters at East Gwillimbury’s Mount Albert station will have a new hall in no time – another building to call home.

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


Print this page

Related



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*