By Rob Evans
Nov. 6, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - This past weekend, everyone should have rolled their clocks back an hour (unless you are in Saskatchewan) to observe daylight savings time. On Friday, my dad and I took it a step further and turned the metaphorical clock back by going to watch an NHL game between the Calgary Flames and the Nashville Predators. The outing took me back to a time when I was a kid and we would go to Maple Leafs Gardens to watch Dave “Tiger” Williams take the fight to visitors on Carlton Street.
Sadly, over the weekend, turning back the clock could not help five people across the country who were killed as a result of residential fires in Sooke, B.C., Toronto and St. Catharines, Ont. The fatalities in Sooke occurred in a house without working smoke alarms. It’s 2014 and we are still responding to homes in Canada that do not have working smoke alarms. You all must feel as frustrated as I do when you read news articles about fire-related deaths and injuries every day on the Fire Fighting in Canada website.
“Change your clocks. Change your batteries.” It is not a new program, yet we still do not seem to get the message across. With the prevalence of social media, have we, as a fire service, forgotten about those who may not be plugged in?
The Alberta government announced changes to fire code last week, making it manditory to have sprinklers in seniors’ residences, which falls on the heels of the horrible fire in L’Ise-Verte, Que., last year. Ontario took similar measures in May last year. This is great, but other provinces have to follow suit before more of our vulnerable citizens fall victim to heat and smoke.
Of course, these code changes only affect those seniors living in care homes. In Canmore, Alta., the fire department, led by Fire Chief Todd Sikorsky, has teamed up with the local Canadian Tire this week to promote fire safety within the community’s aging population. The town, department and store are offering smoke-alarm battery replacement for free to seniors and people with mobility issues. Canmore Fire and Rescue staff will visit homes and all people have to do is make an appointment by calling the fire station. This is a great program being offered by the mountain town of about 12,000, and hopefully other departments across Canada will follow this lead to promote seniors safety in their communities.
Just as it was great, as a kid, to watch Maple Leafs take the fight to visitors of the Gardens, it is exciting to watch fire departments take the fight to fires that occur far too often across this country. But the consequences of losing this fight are far greater than adding to penalties in minutes (PIM) on the stats sheet. As we saw this past weekend, we need to win this fight to keep from adding to the death and injury stats – a far more important game.
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