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July 3, 2012
By Jennifer Grigg


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July 3, 2012, Midland, Ont. – Best part of my long-weekend Saturday? Seeing a four-year-old boy reach out for the little stuffed animal that we’d gotten off the rescue truck, and hold it tightly while his mom carried him to the ambulance.

July 3, 2012, Midland, Ont. – Best part of my long-weekend Saturday? Seeing a four-year-old boy reach out for the little stuffed animal that we’d gotten off the rescue truck, and hold it tightly while his mom carried him to the ambulance.

The little boy is going to be OK, but in that moment of being scared, upset and surrounded by paramedics and firefighters, it made me feel better to know we helped make a bad moment even a little bit better. And it reminded me of what being a volunteer firefighter is really all about.

As fun and exciting as it is to drive the fire trucks with lights flashing and sirens wailing, to put out fires and to respond to car accidents, along with everything else we do, equally as powerful are the moments like the one with the little boy Saturday afternoon.

Our long weekend started with a call to a bush fire on Thursday evening around 8:30. Seven firefighters responded in two fire boats, and three firefighters were on standby at the staging area in case more manpower was needed, or another call came in. It took a while for the guys to locate the fire, as not only was it an island, but it was also dark by the time they got to the island, and they had to climb a steep rock to get to the bush and find the fire. They also had to carry the heavy forestry packs, find a place to set up the Wajax, and determine the extent of the fire, which is not an easy task in the dark.

I was one of the ones who sat at the staging area, so other than the mosquitoes (which are HUGE by the way, in Muskoka), I got off easily compared to the guys out on the island trying to put out the smouldering bush fire in the dark. Still, it was about 1:30 in the morning by the time I got home.

The next morning, we were back out at the same location around 9 a.m. to put out more hot spots. Just for the record, I’m not saying this was a “rekindle” (because that’s pretty much a swear word in our world), and besides, how the heck can you really be sure you’ve gotten it all out when you’re out there in the pitch black in the first place? Anyone who’s fought a bush fire knows that subterranean fires can smoulder for a very long time. Just sayin’.

By the time we’d gotten the fire out, got back to the marina, and then back to the hall, repacked all the forestry hose, and refueled everything, it was 3:00 in the afternoon. And I was T-I-R-E-D! And I know I wasn’t the only one . . . not mentioning any names . . . Shannon, Doug, Chris, and Jim! Not to mention, the two who were at the fire and then had to go to work on afternoons, Josh and Matt. Now that makes for a long day! The life of a volunteer firefighter . . .

Sunday we were back at it, but this time we spent the day in the beautiful metropolis of Honey Harbour at the Canada Day festivities. Handing out fire-prevention material and answering questions. Interesting to note that, despite being in uniform, someone asked me if we were Power Squadron, one asked me where Georgian Bay was, and another asked just what it was that we did. Oh, and two people asked us what WE do about bears . . .

However, we also had a few people thank us for what we do (which is always nice to hear), and one gentleman who wanted to personally thank us because our firefighters responded to his cottage last summer for a medical emergency and, according to him, were the reason that he is still here today.

And that, my friends, was the other favourite moment in my day.

Jennifer Mabee is a volunteer with the Township of Georgian Bay Fire Department in Ontario. She began her fire 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 jhook0312@yahoo.ca.


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