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September 12, 2014
By Rob Evans

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Sept. 12, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - In Alberta there is a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Well, there was no change for us for the past 24 hours. A summer snowstorm (yes I said snow) hit on Tuesday and with it brought close to 30 cm of the heavy, white precipitation. The calls started Wednesday at 7 a.m. when Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) was paged out for a tree, weighted down by wet snow, arching on some power lines.

Sept. 12, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – In Alberta there is a saying: “If you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes.” Well, there was no change for us for the past 24 hours. A summer snowstorm (yes I said snow) hit on Tuesday and with it brought close to 30 cm of the heavy, white precipitation. The calls started Wednesday at 7 a.m. when Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) was paged out for a tree, weighted down by wet snow, arching on some power lines.

Without hesitation – okay, maybe a little when I opened the front door of my house – I headed down to the station where a crew was already assembled and heading out in the engine. Six more times that Wednesday, the great RMES crews hopped on our trucks and helped people out. No complaining, no delays, just responding.

Later, while sitting at home, I started thinking about the 341 firefighters and two paramedics from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY) that jumped on their rigs 13 years ago – no complaining, no delays, just responding. Why? It’s what we do. Our communities count on us to run in while everyone else is running out. Obviously the 40-member RMES is vastly different than the 12,000 plus membership of FDNY.

On September 11, 2001, I had been a member of RMES for about nine and a half years and working at fire dispatch in Calgary for only a couple. That morning, I was sleeping in because I had to work a 12-hour night shift starting at 6 p.m. But I was woken up shortly after 7 a.m. with the demand that I get up right away and come see what was unfolding on CNN. Clearing the sleep out of my eyes still, I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It wasn’t long until the second tower was hit by another plane. My wife Jenn and I watched in horror as more unbelievable news was reported, the Pentagon, Shanksville, Pennsylvania. We thought out loud, “how many more?” Then the unthinkable happened, the collapse of the first tower. I remember feeling weak in the knees. Know vaguely the responses of FDNY, I knew there would be responders killed, lots of them. Writing this I still get a little queasy thinking about it. The rescue and recovery rolled from minutes into hours, days and months – no complaining, no delays, just responding.

RMES we hosted a candlelight vigil a couple of days later. There were the predictable young guys that came out and wanted to sign up afterwards. A couple lasted only a month or two but there were four that hung around and became valuable members of our department.

Last night, 10 of our firefighters took part in the Climb for the Fallen, which was held at the Calgary Tower. It was a special moment for our team as they carried the flag of the FDNY, given to us for safekeeping more than a year ago and hung in our station with pride. It is one of only two FDNY flags in the control of Canadian fire departments, and we will be sad to see it go, but know that the next department will take great care of it when we transfer the flag to them this weekend.

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Hundreds of firefighters and supports
from across Alberta participated in Climb for the Fallen, held at the
Calgary Tower on Sept. 11.


When the RMES team climbed the 802 stairs of the Calgary Tower with firefighters from all over southern Alberta, there was no complaining, no delays, just climbing.

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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