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Jennifer Grigg   

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July 5, 2012, Midland, Ont. - “Someone’s losing their roof,” Jimmy said matter-of-factly as he noticed the cloud of smoke billowing up in the sky from his shop a block away.

July 5, 2012, Midland, Ont. – “Someone’s losing their roof,” Jimmy said matter-of-factly as he noticed the cloud of smoke billowing up in the sky from his shop a block away.

Jimmy is a firefighter in my hall but found himself helping out on a structure fire in a neighbouring township on the weekend. He’d jumped in his truck and driven to the house without a moment’s hesitation after seeing the smoke.

Once on scene, he ran up to the three firefighters who had arrived on scene from the local fire department and asked where their attack lines were. He found them, hauled them off the truck and laid them to the house and then ran back and asked where the high vol was on the truck. He then grabbed the high vol, ran it to the hydrant, opened it and waited for the signal to charge the line.

As I listened to him tell the story, I had to catch myself because I’m sure my mouth dropped open. I couldn’t help thinking, who else would’ve done the same in that situation? I’m sure most of us, if not all, would have wanted to help, for sure, and perhaps even asked if we could offer any assistance, but to just jump right in like that?


I can only imagine what the local firefighters were thinking at the time, like, “Who is this guy . . . ?” I wanted to ask Jimmy if he happened to have a Georgian Bay Fire Department T-shirt on that day (many volunteer firefighters typically do on any given day, if not most days . . . ) However, I’m sure it was evident that he knew exactly what he was doing and there was no need for explanation.

I can’t help wondering if an unknown firefighter would be so graciously received if the situation were reversed and someone we didn’t know showed up at one of our structure fires and started pulling hose.

In comparison, if you look at what’s happening in places in the States, like Colorado, I’m sure that they’d welcome all the help they can get. After all, we’re all in this for the same reason, to help people. Large scale or small. Someone needs help, we go. Whether it’s because the pager has gone off, or we’re out somewhere with our family and someone needs assistance.

Two years ago, a tornado went through our town and (unbeknownst to us at the time) my mom had been in the middle of it. She’d called us after it had passed to nonchalantly tell us that her front window was broken and the tarp from our boat was missing. Clearly, she was in shock. We headed over to assess the damage and were totally caught off guard by what we saw. People lying on the ground, mobile homes shattered, debris everywhere, and my mom, standing in her driveway, in the midst of the chaos. It’s an image that will be cemented in my mind forever. She’d heard long ago to get in her bathtub if a tornado ever went through, which is exactly what she did, and survived unscathed.

Since my significant other and I are both volunteer firefighters (although I wasn’t on a department at the time), we jumped right in and started helping out where we could. We updated the fire department and paramedics when they arrived on scene, and transported people to hotels after things had settled down.

We did what we could to help.

Just like Jimmy did at the fire on the weekend, and just like any of us would do. Whenever, wherever, however, whatever we can, we’ll do it.

It’s what being a volunteer firefighter is all about.

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

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