Size-up

June 13, 2014
Written by Rob Evans
June 13, 2014, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - It has been two months since I blogged last. In early April, I felt compelled to write about the passing of Jim Flaherty. I was fortunate to have met the former finance minister and came to respect the man who represented more people than just those in his Oshawa-Whitby riding, east of Toronto. I must admit that it was hard to write that day. Flaherty was a truly great Canadian and great supporter of the Canadian fire service and made an impression on me.

Today, I am writing about another man, although a much younger one, who has made an impression on me over the past few years. My son Alex graduated from the Calgary Fire Department’s cadet program last night and I could not be more proud. Alex began his cadet program half way through his Grade 10 year and, at the time, I wrote about the pride that I felt. We are a firefighting family, going as far back as far as a maternal, great-grandfather. Alex’s middle name, Glenn, was given out of respect to a man who left us long ago, but is still a big influence in my life. Uncle Glenn was with the fire department in Erin, Ont., for more than 40 years. The fruit does not fall far from the tree. Good thing, because Alex’s younger brother has no interest in fire.

Alex has learned a great deal from the excellent instructors that the CFD uses for the program. The group of Calgary and area high-school students have learned a great deal, from CPR and first-aid to cutting apart cars to fighting fires in the smoke tower. While I was recently on Vancouver Island presenting at British Columbia’s training officer and fire chief conferences, Alex even received his certificate for NFPA 472 hazmat awareness.

Over the last year and a half, Alex has not just learned about fire fighting but he has also grown as a person. The co-ordinator of the program, Calgary firefighter Ashton Sykes, has done a fantastic job teaching all of these teens what it means to be responsible, thoughtful, respectful and so much more. I would like to think that Alex’s mom, Jennifer, and I have had a part in it too but the cadet leadership has rounded it out.

During the flooding in southern Alberta flooding in June 2013, Alex’s leadership skills shone as he helped with disaster-relief efforts, including securing landing zones for helicopters in a playing field. These skills were always there, but being in cadets has strengthened Alex’s abilities; he has set priorities , that do not include rugby or football, but instead work and a vehicle. This breaks my heart because Alex is good at both sports but the responsibility he is showing has to be applauded.

Last night, Alex walked across the stage at the Multi-Agency Training Centre in Calgary’s east end, with 118 years of family firefighting experience watching. Trying to hold it together for the ceremony wereas me (23 years), Jennifer (22 years), my dad (38 years) and Jennifer’s dad (35 years). Cheering from home was be proud Uncle Jason, with 24 years.

I hope that Alex will take every opportunity given to him to meet and learn from great people. He starts this weekend by sitting in while former Washington, DC, fire chief Dennis Rubin speaks about safety and leadership at Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES). Still a year away from being able to join the RMES ranks, I hope that Alex keeps the passion for the job while he waits. I sure he will, as he is already expressing an interest in helping with further cadet classes. Again, Alex continues to set mature, responsible goals.

There were a number of speakers during the ceremony and all talked about the leadership the entire cadet group had shown. The cadets respected the speakers, as they sat and listened to each one. The group has grown as a team over the last 18 months and continued to support each other as award winners were announced. And the cadets showed their appreciation for Sykes at the end of the night as they brought him up on stage and presented to him a class photo in an engraved frame. Sykes has clearly made a lasting impression on these young men. Who knows? Maybe one or more of these kids will make a lasting impression on future cadets.
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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