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September 4, 2012
By Jennifer Grigg


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Sept. 4, 2012, Midland, Ont. – The night before this blog entry was due, my other half and I were in the middle of frantically trying to get our house ready to be listed – because two days before that, our offer on another house (much closer to the fire hall – you see, there’s a method to my madness) had been accepted (conditional upon selling ours, of course.)

Sept. 4, 2012, Midland, Ont. – The night before this blog entry was due, my other half and I were in the middle of frantically trying to get our house ready to be listed – because two days before that, our offer on another house (much closer to the fire hall – you see, there’s a method to my madness) had been accepted (conditional upon selling ours, of course.)

Note to self . . . it’s not a good idea to try and buy a house before selling the one in which you’re currently living. It’s kind of a stressful thing to do, especially when having to get it all done in a month. What was I thinking?

What does that all have to do with fire fighting, you may ask? Well, aside from relocating us 20 minutes north into a very rural area (as opposed to the town we live in now) in order to be closer to the fire hall (among other things), I’ve noticed a few similarities between buying/selling your house and life on a volunteer fire department.

First of all, life goes from calm, relaxed and easy-going one moment to feeling like everything is up in the air and unknown the next. I’m referring to the decision to buy another house and sell our current house, but it also applies to being a volunteer firefighter. Whether you are hanging out at home or busy at work, once that pager goes off everything changes in an instant: you drop everything and focus your time, attention and energy into this one thing, be it getting your house ready for sale in an unthinkable amount of time considering all the little projects that have yet to be finished, or when the one thing demanding your attention happens to be a fire call. All you’ve got goes into the task at hand, until it’s seen through to completion, one way or the other.

Even the outcome is a factor that you can’t control in either situation. You can certainly hope for a positive outcome, and do everything in your power to help it turn out the way you’d like to see it turn out, but the truth is that there are some things that are simply beyond your control.

In reference to home buying, I’ve told myself (and my other half) more than once that if it’s meant to be, it’ll happen (in a “there, there; it’ll all be OK” kind of way), or I’ll give the old optimistic response: “If it doesn’t work out with this one, it must mean that there’s something even better out there for us.”

If you missed a really good fire call and were kicking yourself because you missed it, a firefighter (who was lucky enough to have been there) might say to you, “If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,” or “It just wasn’t meant to be,” which would probably just make you feel even worse about missing that good call and you’d kick yourself even harder for whatever it was that you were doing at the time that was responsible for causing you to miss the call in the first place. It’s kind of like getting a participant ribbon in sports as a kid, or a Most Honest Golfer award at a golf tournament. At least those say, “Thanks for coming out.” If you missed a good call, it’s more likely that you’ll get a, “Better luck next time,” from the guys in your hall.

And the “If it doesn’t work out with this one, it must mean that there’s something even better out there for us” comment . . . well, perhaps if you were trying to burn something for suppression training, and the fire didn’t really get going on the first attempt, and so you added a little more fuel, and a little more, and maybe a touch more…maybe then you’d have something better. Or not, depending on how you look at it.

Another similarity between selling our house and the fire service is that sometimes you hit that point at which you just feel like you’ve had enough. Today, for example, I felt like I’d had enough of the whole prepping the house for sale thing and had hit my limit, after three days of non-stop work.

I reached a similar limit on a brush fire the other day, except it was with my body not regulating my temperature in the 30-degree weather with bunker pants, helmet and gloves on overtop of my work uniform. I knew it was time to plan my escape when I started to wonder what my chances were of passing out in the sumac bushes and not ending up covered in a poison ivy-like rash. After dressing down and drinking a bottle of water, I’d gotten past my limit and was back in the game and good to go.

Whether it’s house-selling or fire fighting, both have the potential to add a little chaos to your life, but in the end, it’s always worth it!

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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