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Volunteer Vision: September 2013

I have written before about the benefits of involvement in the fire service beyond our own departments. As I expand my affiliations, both provincially and nationally, I continue to be amazed at the dedication and passion that those in the fire service hold for what we do, and just how that passion and pride fuels my positive attitude toward life.

September 9, 2013
By Tom DeSorcy

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I have written before about the benefits of involvement in the fire service beyond our own departments. As I expand my affiliations, both provincially and nationally, I continue to be amazed at the dedication and passion that those in the fire service hold for what we do, and just how that passion and pride fuels my positive attitude toward life.

This past year I had the privilege to travel with the executive board of the Fire Chiefs Association of British Columbia (FCABC) to beautiful Nelson. Located in the province’s southeast, this historic community not only played host to the fire-themed movie Roxanne, but also celebrates history at almost every turn, including the Nelson Fire Hall, which is 100 years old this year – something Fire Chief Simon Grypma is very proud of, as is evidenced with each guided tour he gives in the museum. It turns out that, in 1907, the first meeting of the original group that eventually became the FCABC was held in Nelson.

As part of our visit, I had the honour to attend several meetings, including that of the volunteer members in the area. Here was a group of fire officers who came together on a Saturday morning not only to share their issues and concerns but also to proudly report the activities and positive changes made in each of their departments. I will admit I did joke about using this meeting to gather material for this column, but it wasn’t until after we had left that I realized that I had to include it.

Without focusing too much on the fact that we are all getting older, the combined level of experience that was in the room that day was extraordinary. I saw more years of service hanging from those uniforms than I’ve seen in a while, which is a true testament to the pride and dedication that we have for the fire service. It made me proud to be associated with these individuals who have long been trusted by their communities. Another fact, and something that might surprise a lot of organizations, is that usually when there is that much experience in one room, ideas for change are not very forthcoming; in fact, I would suggest that a positive gathering such as this would be rare outside of the fire service. “We’ve tried that before and it won’t work,” is just one of the lines you’d expect – but not here. Ideas on this day were fresh and in keeping with the times. This group wanted to encourage positive change, not only in their departments, but also in the association that brought them all together.

Those who know me are aware of my positive take on life in general; the fire department has helped me realize this even more. Sure, we all have issues now and again, but more often than not, the people we deal with – the customers we serve on a regular basis – have bigger problems than we will ever have. Their worst day is our every day – we’ve all heard that – but, in the smaller departments, it’s not necessarily every day, and motivation can be a little hard to come by when you find yourself behind a desk responding more to e-mails and phone messages than to fire calls. That’s where positive reinforcement comes in, and there is nothing more positive to me than working with my colleagues on projects. Affiliation with various associations has made that possible. The gathering in Nelson
proved that.

Have you ever met another firefighter somewhere else in the world? Sure you have. We’re always wearing a t-shirt of some kind that makes us easily identifiable, aren’t we? Think of the realization you have when you do – that sense of commonality, the sense of belonging. When you are first introduced, do you not feel connected in some way? It’s not something you can vocalize – there is no secret handshake – it’s just there, and we’re the only ones who get it. If you had time to compare notes, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long to discover how much you share.

Often we mire ourselves in the day-to-day operations of our communities: the politics, the neighbourhood disputes and other things that can easily bring us down. When we venture beyond all that, we are reminded that we are not alone, and that others share in our trials and tribulations and, in most cases, are doing something about it.

Take a moment and remember who you are and what you are a part of. Association involvement serves to make me proud and remind me of this.

Is the glass half empty or half full? Who cares, just be happy there is something in it.


Tom DeSorcy became the first paid firefighter in his hometown of Hope, B.C., when he became fire chief in 2000. Originally a radio broadcaster, Tom’s voice could be heard in the early 1990s across Canada as one of the hosts of Country Coast to Coast. DeSorcy is married with two children and enjoys curling and golf. He is also very active with the Fire Chiefs Association of B.C as communications director and conference committee chair. Email Tom at TDeSorcy@hope.ca and follow him on Twitter at @HopeFireDept


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