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Jennifer Grigg   

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July 16, 2012, Midland, Ont. – On Friday night, I got a text message from my buddy, Jimmy.

“You around this weekend? We’re short on manpower.”

July 16, 2012, Midland, Ont. – On Friday night, I got a text message from my buddy, Jimmy.

“You around this weekend? We’re short on manpower.”

“Yep,” I replied. “Our realtor’s coming on Saturday and then we’re going to look at some houses, so we’ll be around.”

Fast forward to Saturday morning; I was out in my backyard (picking up dog poop, as a matter of fact) and the pager went off.


“Crap.” I thought to myself. Literally and utterly. We’d been hard at work all morning loading the truck and were just about to take it to the dump. The little voice in my head said, “If you leave now, Earl will not be a happy camper.”

As I listened to the pager and weighed my options, I was hugely relieved when I realized it wasn’t our call, it was actually out of our area.

“Whew! Dodged that bullet.”

The little voice said. After all, I did tell Jimmy that I’d be around this weekend, wouldn’t want to renege. However, I also wouldn’t be in good standing with Earl if I bailed on him . . . and he’s the one I have to live with . . . I mean, the one I live with.

Carrying on with the day, we were just about to go look at the first house with our realtor when the pager went off.

“Ugh! Not again!” This time it was a brush fire.

“Eeew,” I thought to myself, and then the debate starts in my head. “It’s really hot for a brush fire. But they are short on manpower. Oh well, we are kind of in the middle of something so hopefully they’ll get enough guys coming out for this one and I won’t be missed . . . .” Fingers crossed.

As we arrived at the first house, I anxiously listened to the call and counted the manpower as all the units began to respond: two from our hall, four from Station 1, and then another from our hall, and one more from Station 1. OK, well, they have eight so far. But eight is not a lot for a brush fire, and apparently Jimmy (poor Jimmy, he seems to be the unfortunate lone ranger more often than not) thought the same thing and had our remaining station paged out for additional manpower.

As we tour house No. 1, I’m trying to listen to the call and the realtor and Earl at the same time. Much to my relief (again), they weren’t able to locate this alleged brush fire and it appeared to have been a false alarm. Dodged another bullet. We managed to get through viewing the second and third houses without the pager going off, however, I gladly would’ve left either one for a fire call. Looking for the perfect house is very much a lesson in futility, as Mom would say.

Why do it, you ask?

The funny thing is, one of the reasons we’re moving is for me to be closer to my fire hall. We’re currently about 20 minutes from home to my hall, and Earl is about 12 minutes to his. Therefore, we are looking for something between the two. Some may think that relocating in order to be closer to your fire hall is just plain silly. Those people obviously are not volunteer firefighters.

All joking aside, today was a perfect example of why it’s so important to me to be closer – a busy summer weekend and no one around to respond to calls.

I had talked to Jimmy on my cell during the second call (while we were touring the third house . . . lol) and apologized for missing the calls and assured him that we were done looking at houses and I’d be there for the next one. He laughed and said, “No worries; you needed to be there for what you’re doing.”

Perhaps. But some would argue that I needed to be there for what he was doing, too.

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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