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Mayor’s Column – November 16, 2016

November 16, 2016


Did you ever wake up in the night to the acrid, nose-twisting, gut-cramping odor of something burning? Something that shouldn’t be burning – not now, not here, not ever?

Did you ever with smarting eyes have to evacuate the comfort of your bed, wrap in a sheet, and drag your kids behind you? Terrifyingly scary! And you didn’t even stop to wonder if your insurance was current.

What a relief when the flashing lights and siren of the first responders wakes the street you call home! And the confident assurance of the Volunteer Firefighters allows you to take scanty refuge in your car as you comfort your family until a compassionate neighbour takes you in.

From the safety of distance you watch as the Volunteers expertly lay out their equipment and apply their skills to extinguishing the blaze and salvaging the remains of the stuff you have accumulated – perhaps over years.

Sadly, this scene is played out too often, and too many people feel the heat of the blaze and the pain of loss.

Happily, Chetwynd’s Volunteer Firefighters, quick responders in your emergency, are there to limit your losses.

From October 1, 2015, through the sleet, snow, and cold of winter, through the heat and floods (yes even in the wet and mud of the flood) of summer until October 1, 2016, your Volunteer Firefighters were there for you. Believe it or doubt it. Your Firefighters answered 61 fire calls during those 52 weeks. That’s like five calls per month. That’s more than one call every week. Of course not all of them were in your house in the middle of the night. But uncontrolled fire is hot and consuming and dangerous wherever it is.

In addition to the fire calls, your Volunteer Firefighters answered 43 rescue calls. You had fallen over a cliff or were unprepared for the ice and had to be pried out of your once-beautiful pickup. My guess is that you were really, really glad to see those confident, experienced, well-trained rescuers circling your situation planning quickly how to salvage the remains of a once-beautiful body and transport it to a higher level of care without further injury.

The level of expertise we expect of our Volunteers is not accidental. They were not born with it and they didn’t get it from a book while they relaxed in the comfort of home and family. The same Volunteer Firefighters who saved your property, maybe your life, are the guys (and, now one gal) who left home and family 49 times during the twelve months to acquire and practice the skills they needed to save your hearth and maybe even your health.

Not all the callouts were house fires. We had grass fires, industrial fires, brush fires, commercial fires, and false alarms. But each callout started as an unknown to the Volunteers who had to prepare physically and psychologically for the worst. The stress takes its toll on the Volunteers and their families. The emergency does not wait for the new generation to put the puck in the net or the graduate to receive her diploma. The call comes; the Volunteer responds. That’s life for the Volunteer and the family.

Don’t suppose that I’ve given you the full story. There’s more. I simply want to express in this small way my appreciation for the work of the Firefighters – and all first responders. And I want to people of Chetwynd to have some idea of the nature of the work and the type of person who follows the beeper to your emergency.


Merlin Nichols, Mayor