Nov. 15, 2011, Midland, Ont. - I had just sat down at the rink in Coldwater to watch my daughter’s hockey game. I was appropriately attired in my nice, warm, down “hockey coat” that’s long enough to keep my backside warm when sitting on those cold benches, Timmy’s in hand. I commented to the mom beside me that it seemed colder in the arena than it had been yesterday. It’s what appears to be an average, ordinary, everyday moment. Then it happened . . . two tones emanating from my pager, my brain clueing in: “OMG! Is it? Can it be?? Is it a call???” And then . . . nothing . . . no more tones, no voice, nothing but static.
By Jennifer Grigg
Nov. 15, 2011, Midland, Ont. – I had just sat down at the rink in Coldwater to watch my daughter’s hockey game. I was appropriately attired in my nice, warm, down “hockey coat” that’s long enough to keep my backside warm when sitting on those cold benches, Timmy’s in hand. I commented to the mom beside me that it seemed colder in the arena than it had been yesterday. It’s what appears to be an average, ordinary, everyday moment. Then it happened . . . two tones emanating from my pager, my brain clueing in: “OMG! Is it? Can it be?? Is it a call???” And then . . . nothing . . . no more tones, no voice, nothing but static.
I grab the pager and turn it around, holding it at different angles, putting it up to my ear, trying to see if I can hear anything else, contemplating standing on one foot and leaning over to one side to see if I can pick up the transmission. Nothing. Hmmh.
“Oh well,” I think to myself, “must be another station’s call because my pager didn’t actually trip the way it does when my hall is paged.”
The mom beside me says, “Are you a volunteer firefighter?” I answered “Yeah, but . . .” (about to explain that it doesn’t seem to be my call), when I feel my cell phone vibrating in my pocket. Pager in hand, coffee between my knees, I dig out my cell and read the text message from a fellow firefighter: “Fire call, Station 2 and 3.” “Oh crap! I gotta go!” I say to the mom beside me.
So there I was, trying to juggle pager, cell and coffee while digging for my keys in my purse. I still haven’t heard anything more on the pager so I don’t even know what kind of call it is. I throw my half full coffee in the garbage can on my way out of the arena while frantically texting back, “In Coldwater. On my way.” Jump in my Jeep, clip my pager on the visor hoping I’ll hear an update, buckle up and off I go.
I get on Hwy 400 and head north, begging my Jeep (’98 Jeep, that is, in other words, not great on the highway and I’ve barely gone over 100 with it because it tends to shake and shimmy a little), to get up to 90 while I’m on the ramp onto the 400 and getting ready to merge.
Since it’s a good incline, it seems that my Jeep is even reluctant to get past 80, never mind 90. It usually takes getting over the hill to finally hit 100.
As any firefighter will tell you, if you’re any distance from the hall when the pager goes off, the drive will always seem like it takes forever. (It’s like the feeling of running in a dream and not getting anywhere.) That drive from Coldwater to Port Severn felt like it took FOREVER!
While I was driving and thinking, “I need to get myself a faster car, and a green light”, I hear on the pager that Station 2 is manned and no further firefighters have shown up. They page out for more manpower. “Yeehaw! I might make the truck!”
Then Station 3 reports that it is manned, also with one.
“C’mon Jeep, you can do it!! Get me to the hall, baby. I gotta catch that truck!”
As I’m driving, I’m trying to remember what all I need to remember when on a vehicle fire on the highway (now that I know what I’m responding to), and what might be asked of me if I do get there. I’m also thinking, “Holy crap it’s hot, why didn’t I take off this super warm, super puffy, bloody coat before I jumped in the Jeep? And why is the zipper done all the way up??”
By now the heart’s thumping, I’m talking to myself, and I’m sweating buckets. Great!
I finally get close enough to Port Severn to be pretty sure I’m making the truck, and as I’m coming down the off ramp, I hear “Pump 3 responding with 4”. Waaaa! Noooooo! As I’m turning onto the road into the fire hall, out comes Pump 3, captain in the front seat looking right at me . . . and laughing. “CRAP!” I said out loud.
Read First call, part 2 here.
Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire
Department in Ontario. She began her fire fighting career with the
Township of Georgian Bay in 1997 and became the department’s fire
prevention officer in 2000 and a captain in 2003. She was a fire
inspector with the City of Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services
before taking time off to focus on family, and is excited to be back at
it. E-mail her at