Always on call

On Saturday night, Travis and I got all dressed up and went dancing.

The occasion was the annual firemen’s ball – a dinner honouring the volunteer firefighters and firettes, and a dance for the whole community.

Apart from one inglorious conversation with our inglorious MHA, it was a wonderful night.

The speeches are all rather predictable, but how many ways are there to say thank you?

I’ve written about the volunteer department before. But I’m not sure I adequately represented what, exactly, the fire department does.

We have almost 20 firefighters and a dozen firettes.

These firefighters are volunteers.
These firefighters attend meetings every week.
These firefighters are on call, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There is no on-call rotation. When there is a community event – the firemen’s ball or a wedding, for example, a neighbouring fire department will be on standby – another crop of volunteers – because volunteer firefighters can’t simply lay down their hoses and say, sorry, friends – no fire protection service tonight.
These firefighters leave their jobs, families and homes to come save your job, family and home.
These firefighters attend accident scenes.
These firefighters pull people from wrecked vehicles.
These firefighters perform first aid and CPR and call for ambulance and police service.
These firefighters wade through torrents of water to knock on your grandparents’ door to make sure they have enough water, wood, food and medicine to see them through a Hurricane.
These firefighters give up hours of personal and work time to train themselves in firefighting, first aid and emergency/disaster response.
These firefighters write grant and funding applications to keep themselves trained, their trucks on the road and their fire hall open.
These firefighters do not get paid.

These firettes are volunteers.
These firettes attend meetings every week.
These firettes fundraise for every penny that goes into the trucks, pumps, bunker suits, helmets, pager system and power bill.
These firettes answer phones and tend the radio when the firefighters are on the scene of an emergency.
These firettes do not get paid.

The local fire department is not very busy, at least not with emergency calls. That is a good thing. But all these meetings, training and fundraisers must still go on so that when a call comes – like it did yesterday, mere hours after the last dancers left the dance floor – there are firefighters and firettes ready and able to respond.

I’m not religious and I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve attended church in the past five years. (In fact, if my friends would stop getting married and having babies, I wouldn’t have to go at all). But the Firemen’s prayer always makes me cry.

When I am called to duty, God
whenever flames may rage,
Give me the strength to save some life
Whatever be its age.

Help me to embrace a little child
Before it’s too late,
Or some older person
from the horror of that fate.

Enable me to be alert
And hear the weakest shout,
And quickly and efficiently
to put the fire out.

I want to fill my calling
and give the best in me,
To guard my every neighbour
And protect his property.

And if according to Your will
I am to lose my life,
Please bless with Your protecting hand
My children and my wife

– A.W. “Smokey” Linn

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2 responses to “Always on call

  1. So beautiful and a fitting tribute to an amazing group of people that we could not do without!

  2. I had no idea. Also, way to make me cry.

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