Written by Jennifer Grigg
We all know that the fire service attracts a certain type of person. Chances are, you are one. Outgoing, hands-on, action-oriented. A classic Type A personality. The go-getters.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Rekindle. What does that word mean to you? The dictionary defines it as a verb, to revive something that has been lost, as in “he tried to rekindle their friendship.”
Written by Peter Simpson
You discover a fire has started in the kitchen of the home you share with your spouse and children. Before you have time to gather your thoughts, the fire spreads quickly up the walls.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Is there something right now that you know you need to do, but are putting off? What just popped into your head? Why is it that you’re avoiding doing whatever that thing is that you know you really should have done by now?
Written by Jennifer Grigg
I left my full-time job as an instructor at the Ontario Fire College in December 2017. After 18 months in what many would describe as a career highlight, I realized that the position just wasn’t “it” for me. I didn’t really know what “it” was, but I instinctively knew that wasn’t “it”.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
During my stint as an instructor at the Ontario Fire College in Gravenhurst, one of the expectations that really impacted me was the awareness and importance of using gender neutral or gender-inclusive language in the classroom.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Last June, I began a journey that challenged, motivated and inspired me in ways that I never could have imagined. I started a new job as an instructor at the Ontario Fire College. It was everything I’d dreamed of and more, so much more.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
May 10, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - The devastating pictures and videos coming out of Fort McMurray, Alta., over the past week have struck a chord in everyone. Fire and its consumable nature is something that people don’t often think about until it hits close to home.

Many people enjoy the sights and sounds (and even the distinct smell) of sitting by a campfire, but even the most innocent campfire can become out of control and damage property and structures. This is not to say that we shouldn’t have campfires, but we should enjoy them responsibly, use well-maintained fire pits, and respect the power that fires yield. It’s great to roast marshmallows but we don’t want to be roasting our lawn, trees, or home.

Many homeowners use fire as a cost-effective and, for the most part, environmentally friendly way to clear brush, leaves and dead tree branches. Yet most of us have responded to a brush fire that was caused by an embarrassed homeowner who lost control of the blaze.

Don’t get me wrong, responding to, controlling and extinguishing fire is one of our many duties and the reason we’re here, but we still need to educate and encourage people to take the necessary precautions so that we don’t need to respond in the first place. The fire department is a reactive measure; educating people about fire safety in all forms is a proactive measure.

Those of us who join the fire department do so with different career paths and goals in mind, but we all joined for the same reason: to help our communities. If your fire department has a fire-prevention officer and/or a public-education officer, that’s fantastic, but educating the public is every firefighter’s job.

Whether you are on a call or filling up the trucks at the local gas station after the call, share fire-safety information with the public. Never miss out on an opportunity to raise awareness about the services we offer and the knowledge we can share with others. We have a ton of training in so many different aspects of fire suppression, prevention, rescue, medical, hazardous materials, and so on, so why wouldn’t we share what we know? Why would we wait to help others?

I haven’t heard how the fire in Fort McMurray was started, but clearly something got out of control – intentionally or accidently. More than 80,000 people were forced to leave their homes, their belongings and their lives behind, with no idea of what they’ll be returning to when it’s all over. To the firefighters continuing to battle the blaze, be safe, we’re praying for you.

As for all the other firefighters out there who are reading these words, educate, educate, educate! Share your passion with others. Your words could be the ones that keep someone safe.

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
April 25, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I had the honour of presenting an overview of the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) program to the Muskoka Association of Fire Chiefs at their meeting in Bracebridge last week.

It was an honour for two reasons: the first is the topic of conversation – the R2MR program, which is near and dear to my heart. I am always happy to enlighten fire-service members on the fundamentals of the program and to help create interest and enthusiasm surrounding it, because I believe in it and its effectiveness so emphatically.

The second reason it was an honour is because I am always grateful to spend time with other firefighters and officers – I have great respect for this profession in all of its forms – especially those who have worked their way up to such a multi-faceted position as chief.

Those in the fire service who have moved into senior officer positions are generally those who have been in the service for many years, put forth consistent effort to pursue training, education and personal and professional growth, and bring a wealth of knowledge and insight to any conversation. They’ve seen a lot, they’ve done a lot, they know a lot, and there is a lot to learn from them.

As I listened to the chiefs discuss co-ordinating the R2MR training for the six fire departments in the District of Muskoka, I was struck by the collaborative effort and dedication to working cohesively to bring the training to all of their fire-service members.

Any new program or training has some implementation barriers, and it’s up to the leaders of the fire departments to be the agents of change. These leaders are clearly demonstrating their commitment to their firefighters, officers and departments as a whole, and to me, that’s what the fire service is all about.

Something I’ve always loved about the fire service is how fortunate we are to be able to meet and/or work with members of other fire departments by taking courses at the fire college and other approved training facilities. We have the opportunity to create networks across the province with other members, who often become lifelong friends and colleagues. It really is a brotherhood and it extends across borders too. We face the same issues, the same challenges and the same struggles.

I’m not sure if departments in the United States are implementing a version of the R2MR, but I hope they have some sort of mental-health awareness training program in place. We’ve all seen the staggering numbers of emergency services personnel taking their own lives.

Regardless of what fire department you’re on, what country you live in, and whether you’re male or female, if you’re in the fire service (and I’m assuming you are if you are reading this), you are part of the brotherhood and we need to take care of our own.

I hope that you too have leaders such as the ones I have in my area, and the ones whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the R2MR trainers program, but keep in mind, you don’t have to be an officer to be a leader.

As leadership author Robin Sharma says: “Lead without a title.”

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen

Written by Jennifer Grigg
April 7, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - Why challenge ourselves?

Last weekend, I had the distinct pleasure of presenting the new Road to Mental Readiness (R2MR) training program, along with eight other R2MR-certified trainers, to attendees at the Northeastern Fire Education Conference in North Bay, Ont.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 30, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - When I left my full-time job in the municipal planning department three weeks ago, I had no idea where I would end up or what I would do with myself. There were definitely things I wanted to do, but how often do we think to ourselves, “If I had the time, I would do this, this and this,” and then never actually do it?

I’ve often daydreamed of travelling and having meaningful conversations with people who inspire me, and then writing a book about those experiences.

The time I have on my hands right now, I’ve realized, is the perfect time to fulfill that dream. In the past three weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend time chatting with the acting principal of the Ontario Fire College, a fire protection specialist with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, a suppression captain with Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services, and a former co-worker who is a fire inspector with MFES (and you all know how I have a special place in my heart for Mississauga).

I am literally living my dream. Experiencing the knowledge, insight, humour, integrity, compassion and genuineness of the four people with whom I’ve had the honour of spending time is valuable beyond belief.

If someone told me a year ago, or even six months ago, that I would drive an hour, each way, to spend an hour speaking with the principal at the fire college – whom I’d never actually met before – I never would have believed it. I knew who she was (doesn’t everyone? She’s a powerhouse in the fire service) and we’d connected and chatted often through social media, but that was the extent of our interaction. The idea of calling her up (messaging her, actually – we introverts prefer email/text to phone calls) to ask if I could visit for a quick chat would have totally freaked me out in the past. My fear would have been too great for me to make that move, regardless of how much I wanted to.

Meeting the fire protection specialist for coffee and a chat two weeks ago was something else I would have been too shy to do in the past. I’d met him during a course I took last year, but did not get to know him well, and, for a shy introvert such as myself, the thought of a conversation with a near-stranger would have sent me back into my cocoon. Fortunately, shyness appears to be a non issue for me these days.

The suppression captain I spent time with this week has been a hero of mine since my Mississauga days, and yet, today was the first day that I actually really spoke with her. I remember meeting her briefly in the fire station when I was a very new fire inspector back in 2004. The moment my captain introduced her as a captain, it was as though the heavens parted and the sun shone down on her. Sounds totally cheesy, I know, but when you come face to face with the small, silent dream that you carry within, it’s a pretty powerful moment. Since I first fell in love with the fire service, I’ve dreamed of being a full-time firefighter one day. Life may have taken me in another direction, but this captain will always be an inspiration.

Which leads me to my friend, the Mississauga fire inspector. I worked for Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services 12 years ago, for a mere six months, and I have never been more impacted by a job in my life. The friends I made during those six months have remained cherished friends, which is rare for an introvert. I have a knack for falling out of touch with people, yet I’ve never hesitated to hop in my car and drive to Mississauga just to have coffee with the guys. It’s awesome and unbelievable to me how much that job and those six months changed me, and became a part of who I am. I’m always happy to have the opportunity to meet up with old colleagues, particularly this fire inspector, and catch up with life in the big city (me being the country bumpkin that I am.)

I instinctively know that there is great power in the right conversations, and the past few weeks have proved that to be absolutely true. I learned from the principal that I’m smarter than I give myself credit for; the fire protection advisor showed me that we all have similar stories and can use them to reach out to others; the suppression captain taught me to have the mindset: why not me?; and my very good friend the inspector reminded me – yet again – about the career that I could still have.

These are valuable life lessons to be sure, but the best part of these conversations was feeling fully alive, engaged and inspired, and knowing that in those moments, with those people, having those conversations, was exactly where I was meant to be.

Looking forward to wherever this crazy adventure of mine takes me.


Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 21, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I recently embarked on the adventure of a lifetime by leaving my full-time job in the municipal planning department in order to follow my heart, and see where it takes me. It has been both a fantastic and frightening journey, but I’ve never felt more alive or engaged. In making the decision to start steering my life in a different direction rather than be dragged along behind it, I’ve discovered a profound sense of inner strength and self confidence (confidence being something with which I have always struggled).

The morning I sat down with my two bosses at work and told them I was leaving, I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I knew in that moment that nothing they could say would change my mind, and no amount of talking could convince me stay. That in itself was such a powerful experience for me: having that kind of confidence in myself and my decision making was new to me. I loved it. Making that one decision – to stand up for myself and what I wanted for my life – became the catalyst for change.

I had given three weeks notice at work in an effort to help my employer with the transition, and found that my entire outlook had changed instantaneously. A co-worker had mentioned that it was obvious I was leaving because I seemed much happier. I laughed and said, “That makes it sound like I’ve been miserable to work with.” She assured me that that wasn’t the case, but I definitely seem more relaxed and at ease.

Some coworkers asked why I had given three weeks notice, since two is standard practice. I explained that I was leaving our employer on good terms and I honestly just wanted to help out my bosses. This decision to leave wasn’t against anyone or anything; it was a move strictly for me.

I’d had many conversations with the human-resources director, my managers, and even our CAO about my career aspirations over the past couple of years, so it wasn’t a surprise to anyone that I’d made the decision to move on, and they wished me well in my endeavours. I had tried my best to adapt to the environment and position I was in, and gave it my all while I was there, but it simply wasn’t my passion.

I always had this gnawing feeling that no matter what I did at work, something was still missing. It turns out that I was missing: my personality, my passion, my natural talents and abilities, my creativity. I simply wasn’t suited to that position. We all have things to which we’re drawn and for which we have passion, based on our personalities, skill sets and interests.

Understanding and accepting this wasn’t a bad thing; in fact, it was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. I could see the passion my coworkers and managers in my department all had for the work we did, which I didn’t share, so I always felt somewhat left out and detached.

I too have passion, but it’s for all things fire, not all things planning.

I connect with others through my love of the fire service. It’s where my heart, my passion, my inner self comes alive. I’m excited to see where this love takes me next.

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it @georgianbayjen
Written by Jennifer Grigg
March 7, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - Yet again, I'm inspired by a course I'm taking to put pen to paper – or fingers to keyboard. 

Due to my (ahem) experience in the fire service and the courses I've already taken, I'm eligible for grandfathering under the transition to NFPA professional standards from the Ontario curriculum, and was offered a spot in the gap course for Fire Officer 1 on the weekend in Tay Township.

In the class of 29 – most are officers – I am one of only a couple of firefighters, the only female, and the only one with a spouse in the room as my husband falls under the grandfathering too. The group is a mix of seasoned veterans and new officers and I can't help but reflect on my years in the fire service and the quiet pride I feel for being fortunate enough to have this opportunity.

Our instructor, Gord Roesch, is a seasoned firefighter, former fire chief, and the driving force behind Southwest Fire Academy in Delhi, Ont. With a passion for the fire service and a dedication to facilitating positive change, one can't help but be inspired to raise the bar both personally and professionally.

The course, in Roesch's words, "isn't what you think it will be." Some may have anticipated an incident command/incident management/scenario-type officer course, but this was going to be far from it. Topics include NFPA standard familiarization, human-resources management through directing staff, coaching and leadership, interpersonal communications, budget request proposals, inspections and accident investigations and physical/mental health and fitness.

Although I didn't actually hear any groans from the class in response to the course outline, I'm sure there were a few in the room thinking it had the potential to be a very long weekend.

Fortunately, Roesch has a knack for making the course as engaging and applicable as a gap course can be that's based on such potentially dry material. With a healthy mix of group work and theory, we started off familiarizing ourselves with the professional qualifications contained in the NFPA 1021 Standard for Fire Officer in order to understand the expectations of a fire officer, did some brainstorming, presented findings to the class, did a budgeting exercise for new equipment, role played using our interpersonal skills, and absorbed concepts surrounding generational learning, motivation and leadership styles and their application in the fire service.

The switch from the Ontario firefighter curriculum to NFPA has been confusing and a bit of a grey area for those of us "senior" firefighters and officers, so courses such as these are greatly appreciated in getting us up to speed. I write the exam for Fire Officer I this Saturday.

It's nice to know that "no one gets left behind" applies to training and certification too.

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen

Written by Jennifer Grigg
Feb. 22, 2016, Port Severn, Ont. - I was on Facebook one day in early December and came across a post for a one-day hockey camp in Calgary with none other than Canadian Olympic athlete Hayley Wickenheiser. "Wow!" I thought to myself, "Would that ever be cool for Sydney." (My almost-at-the-time 16-year-old daughter who also plays hockey.)

It was a fleeting thought and I kept on scrolling, but the seed had been planted.

After Christmas had come and gone, it was time to figure out what to get Syd for her birthday, which is four days after Christmas. My mind went back to the hockey camp . . . and then to the fact that we have family in Okotoks, Alta., just outside of Calgary . . . and then onto the idea that the four of us could make a mini vacay out of it.

It quickly became a done deal.

Fast forward to Friday, Feb. 12. We flew to Calgary around 11 a.m. After a bit of a search for Sydney's hockey stick, which had been separated from her hockey bag, we were on our way to the hotel. We'd booked a hotel close to the Canada Olympic Park and the Markin MacPhail Centre, the rink in which Hayley and her Canadian Women's Hockey League team, The Calgary Inferno, train and play, and where Sydney would go for the hockey camp.

After getting settled in our room, we headed to Okotoks to watch the Flames game with my four nephews and inhale some pizza and wings. We weren't exactly a lively bunch because 10 p.m. in Alberta is midnight in Ontario, and we'd been up since 5 a.m. But it always makes my heart smile to see my Albertan family members.

Saturday was another whirlwind – a day of shopping at the Chinook Centre in Calgary and then dinner and a movie with my nephews. (Deadpool is hilarious, by the way.) Sunday we toured Banff and the breathtaking mountains that speak to my heart just like the waters of Georgian Bay, and more shopping, of course. I do have two teenage daughters, after all.

Monday we were off to see Hayley and Sydney was stoked, but we weren't sure if family members would be permitted to hang out for the day too. My husband and younger daughter are both amateur photographers and were armed with cameras, but I wondered if they would be allowed to take pictures. Hayley is an Olympic athlete after all, the female version of Wayne Gretzky, in the mind of many. I've never met an Olympic athlete or professional hockey player before and didn't know what to expect.

We gathered in one of the meeting rooms that overlooked the rink in this amazing facility and waited for Hayley's arrival. As the rest of my family sat on a lower balcony to watch Hayley's Inferno teammates practise, I was on the upper level and heard whispers of "She's here!" I turned to my right to see if I could see her and there she was, standing right beside me.

"Hi, I'm Hayley." She said and shook my hand.

"Hi, I'm Jen. I'm Sydney's Mom." I was surprised by how down to earth she was.

"Oh my gosh, you came from Ontario. You didn't drive, did you?"

I laughed and told her that we'd flown in and were there for only a few days. We chatted about the plans for the day and what the girls might want to focus on while on the ice.

I caught Syd's attention, motioned for her to come over and introduced her to Hayley. They chatted for a few minutes and then things got underway.

Turned out that family was not only invited to stay for the day, we were also allowed on the bench when the girls were on the ice, were allowed to take as many pics as we wanted, and were offered to help ourselves to the amazing lunch that was prepared for the girls. We even got to see – and hold – Hayley's vast collection of medals, Olympic and otherwise.

Hayley's teammate, Brianne Jenner, and two of the backup goalies for the Inferno were on the ice helping out too. The girls were split up into two groups and were lucky enough to spend time with both Hayley and Brianne, learning tricks, techniques and new skills from these two amazing women.

The afternoon consisted of a presentation by Dr. Syl Corbett on nutrition (which in no way included Ice Caps, Sydney Mabee!), a tour of the Team Canada dressing room and the facilities, several draws throughout the day (Syd won an autographed pair of hockey gloves), and free passes to the Sports Hall of Fame. The girls were also all given an autographed Team Canada Wickenheiser 22 jersey and hockey stick, among other swag.

It was a once in a lifetime experience not only for my daughter, but for my family as well. I wondered if all Olympic athletes and professional athletes were as genuine and down to earth as Hayley.

What I know for sure is that although everyone is able to, not everyone will take the time to mentor young women (or young men). The first thing Hayley did during the camp was ask the girls what they wanted to learn, and what they wanted to get out of the day. Did they want to learn skills or did they want to play a game? The day was all about them, and she was happy to do whatever the participants wanted to do.

We need to cultivate more Hayley Wickenheisers in the fire service, similar to the women (and men) of the Fire Service Women of Ontario – and other associations that I know are out there. I encourage those who are passionate about what they do, and are happy to share with others the knowledge, skills and experience that helped them achieve their goals, to step up to the plate, or out onto the ice, as the case may be.

Use your passion to inspire, motivate and connect with the rookies, the less experienced firefighters, and even the senior firefighters who might just be looking for a mentor of their own. Hint, hint, nudge, nudge, wink, wink.
Written by Jennifer Grigg
Feb 4, 2016, Mississauga, Ont. - Day four of five at the Garry W. Morden Training Centre for the R2MR (Road to Mental Readiness) train-the-trainer course.

If I thought my brain was full by Tuesday, it's definitely jam packed now. There's not even room for air up there. On Wednesday, we continued to practise and get comfortable with delivering content in what are known as micro-teaches at different times throughout the day.

We also continued to review the content in the modules and were provided with background info and research on the material in order to deepen our understanding of the concepts and content. At the end of the day, we were assigned partners and our modules for the practical evaluation component on Friday.

This is where stuff got real. The goal now was to spend time getting intimate with our assigned modules in preparation for our evaluations. However, we were also continuing to work on familiarization with program content as a whole. Actually, familiarization isn't the right word. The importance of fully understanding and knowing the material we will be delivering was emphasized throughout.

Having sound knowledge of the material and the way it's presented and facilitated leads to credibility. Credibility leads to being open to new information and understanding. Understanding raises awareness. Awareness can save lives.

This is not a fluff course, nor is it another notch in the belt that is our resume. This is real. Very real. This program has the power to save lives, and everyone in the course realizes the impact it can have on the lives of emergency services personnel.

With each day, the knowledge, understanding and awareness permeates us and becomes a part of who we are. Our tolerance for counterproductive attitudes and behaviors surrounding mental-health issues decrease.

We've progressed from learning about it to living it.

Thursday we spent most of the day reviewing (again) the entire leadership package, which is the eight- hour course, and the primary package, which is the four-hour course. We reviewed, questioned, reiterated, verified and cemented the absorption of the material.

And then we wrote a test.

I couldn't help but think that the timing of the test may have been off because we were all experiencing full-brain syndrome from the fast-paced review of the two packages, and many of the participants commented on experiencing brain farts during the test.

It also became apparent that it was likely set up that way for a reason. As I mentioned before, the course has been in the works for a very long time. This version of the Mental Health Commission of Canada's program was adapted from the Department of National Defence and Calgary Police Service's Road to Mental Readiness programs. There is a ton of history, research, implementation and evaluation that has gone into this.

Every part of the program has been set up the way it has for a specific reason and I can tell you without a doubt that this is one of, if not the most, impactful courses I've ever taken.

I joked about the week being like a boot camp, and that having us write the test when we did was the equivalent of some of the Navy Seals training video clips we'd seen in the course. Just when you think you've got a handle on everything, the instructors throw something new at you.

That's how committed the instructors are are to ensuring that we're learning, absorbing, recalling and delivering the information correctly.

We're being trained be the catalyst for change by raising awareness and ending the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

And save lives.

A special shout out to our instructors, Valerie and Sergio; your dedication, professionalism, passion and sense of humour inspired us all. Thank you.

Jennifer Grigg has been a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario since 1997. Email her at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  and follow her on Twitter @georgianbayjen
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