Meet the Mayor
January 7, 2015
As we begin a new year it is good to reflect on the year that has passed. Right now I am reflecting on the service of the Chetwynd Volunteer Firefighters. To how many callouts within the District did they respond? How often were they called to dowse the flames outside the District boundary? How often were the Jaws of Life used to chew out a trapped, hurting, and frightened person from a prison of crumpled steel and plastic? How many lives were saved; how many family pictures remain to warm hearts and rekindle memories thanks to the Firefighters’ timely arrival?
These numbers are much more than dry, sterile stats. These tell stories of bravery, even heroism. They are the stuff that explains the meaning of community, of service, of trust. These stats tell stories whose endings would be different if the volunteers had decided to stay in bed when the call came on a frosty night – or stay on the ball field on a sunny afternoon.
Do you have any idea what you pay for the fire protection you probably take for granted? No, of course you don’t. And I had to get the figure from those who work with figures. For strictly operational purposes the Chetwynd fire department costs you more than $2000 for every callout. With more than 120 call outs during the year within town you can do the arithmetic to approximate the total cost.
Suppose only five callouts occurred over the year, would you balk at paying over $50,000 per incident (because costs for maintaining the department would not be materially reduced). Suppose only five houses were saved and no lives lost to the flames. Could you justify the expense of maintaining the Fire Department? But at 120+ callouts in the past year you can imagine the havoc that would be wreaked on our town without a smoothly working, well-functioning, fully equipped, fully staffed, and highly trained volunteer fire department.
Firefighters also responded to more than 80 calls in the rural fire-protection area for which the Peace River Regional District contributes to the cost. Those living within the rural fire-protection area pay PRRD taxes for this service. This close and cooperative association between Chetwynd and the PRRD in fire protection is an example of how municipalities and Regional Districts can work together for mutual benefit.
Every property saved is more than just a property saved. It is years, decades, maybe lifetimes of dreams and hard work, children’s pictures, babies born, and graduations. Peoples’ lives are bound up in their homes. Peoples’ futures are linked with their houses and lands. To have them fly away as noxious gasses in the wind, and to be reduced to ashes on the ground – heartbreaking doesn’t even say it. Yet, even with our fire department, it happens and people have to start again. It’s a tribute to the Creator’s genius that we humans even survive.
And what can I say about the Jaws of Life?
Merlin Nichols, Mayor