This weekend we welcome a new group of 10 members into our ranks and I wonder who will step up and make a difference. Now, every single person who decides to volunteer and agrees to join our department once invited has already made a contribution, but I’m talking about the builders – those members who were great mentors and put their hearts and souls into making us what we are today.
For a department to continue to build there must be a number of bricks involved. Throughout the years, members have come and gone but all have added their masonry and mortar to the growth of any of our departments. Recently Rob Patterson, chief of the Malahat Volunteer Fire Department on Vancouver Island, passed away while helping others. By all accounts, Patterson was the cornerstone of the Malahat crew that includes his wife and sons. He was a strong advocate for highway safety for citizens and responders alike. Hopefully others will continue to build on the foundation he laid out in the area.
This same drive for community helped in the establishment of Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES). Our station is named after a gentleman who, without his involvement, would likely not exist. Mike Magnusson was a founder of our department back in the mid-1970s. He and a couple of other residents had had enough when one of the houses in town burned to the ground and so, RMES was born. This is not unique to our corner of the country; this is what Canadian fire departments have all been built by – the doers in a community. From a department’s infancy to the growth into a finely tuned response unit, it is the doers who move things along, and it is those members who realize we are never truly tuned finely enough to slow down – we can improve, always.
Fast forward RMES just over 10 years; Brenda Bolen had joined our fire department and become a captain. In the late 1980s and early 1990s there were few women firefighters in our parts, but Bolen did not care: she rose above the old-boys’-club attitudes and was a great mentor for not only the women who would come behind her but for us guys too. Bolen was instrumental in my first promotion to lieutenant, and I will never forget her for that. Sadly, she passed away a few years ago; we planted a tree at the station in her honour and that tree continues to thrive and reminds us of Brenda constantly, leaving a smile on my face whenever I need one.
I cannot go without mentioning our first and only chief prior to me, Ed Bowen who, along with Capt. Dave McPherson, guided the department for more than three decades and helped solidify the foundation of what is now a very strong department. Long before the factory-built trucks that fill our station, these two men were instrumental in building some of the best patchwork trucks around. The pride we all felt when a truck would get that final paint job or that last axe mounted in a compartment is something that is missed from time to time.
Take time this week to look back at the friends and mentors who have helped you throughout your time at your halls. Empowering current members to help with decisions and offer suggestions about how to move your departments forward. Think about who will help build your departments into the future and give them the tools required.
Rob Evans is the chief fire officer for Redwood Meadows Emergency Services, 25 kilometres west of Calgary.
Jan. 13, 2017, Redwood Meadows, Alta. - Across this great country there have been many firefighters who have made significant contributions to their fire departments over many, many years. In recent days, I have been thinking about those who made a difference in our own department here in Redwood Meadows.