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July 3, 2012
By Laura King


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July 3, 2012, Toronto - How hot was it in the parking lot of the Grand River Employment and Training Centre at Six Nations on Saturday for the 22nd Annual Ontario Native Firefighters Competition?

July 3, 2012, Toronto – How hot was it in the parking lot of the Grand
River Employment and Training Centre at Six Nations on Saturday for the
22nd Annual Ontario Native Firefighters Competition?

I know I shouldn’t complain because I wasn’t in full gear, hauling hose or racing the clock to knock down targets, but competitors got long breaks between evolutions and were on the shady side of the lot, while the four judges – me, Mark van der Feyst, Hamilton firefighter Tom Cieslak and Ingersoll firefighter Steve Hilton – had to beg, borrow or steal little blocks of shade under awnings erected by spectators during the seven-hour event.

The thermometer in the car on the way home showed 35 degrees. Nuff said.

Congratulations to the Six Nations-1 team, which finished first in the five-team competition. This team had SCBA transfer down to a science and had obviously trained hard.

The late-afternoon tiebreaker (a 38-millimetre hose knockdown) between the teams from Oneida and Garden River was close, with Oneida coming out on top. Chippewa of Themes – which won the sportsmanship award – and Six Nations-A (clearly no one wanted to be Six Nations 2!) were close behind.

You can see the evolutions (and the sweat!) in our photo gallery here.

Sometime Saturday afternoon while I was enjoying the Ontario Native Firefighter Competition, Dave Statter (a U.S. broadcaster and former volunteer firefighter) tweeted this: Fire chief tells reporter women shouldn’t be firefighters.

The tweet included a link to Statter’s blog and a story from the Cyprus Mail newspaper in which the acting fire chief says he doesn’t believe a woman’s place is in the fire station and wants to limit the number of women in the service because they can’t meet the physical requirements for the job. There are 900 firefighters on the island of Cyprus (in the eastern Mediterranean Sea) including 64 women. (By the way, according to the newspaper’s online masthead, it was a mere 32 degrees in Cyprus on Saturday).

Anyway, as you can imagine, the tweet ignited a firestorm of vitriol (directed not at Slatter, the messenger, but at the acting chief in Cyprus), and a polite reply from Six Nations Chief Michael Seth, who noted that close to 50 per cent of his 40 crew members are women: #SNFD Proud of my team! Seth tweeted. Several of those women competed in Saturday’s firefighter games, including two on the winning team!

Which brings me to the July issue of Canadian Firefighter and EMS Quarterly and Jennifer Mabee’s Dispatches column on gender in the fire service.

Jen wrote the column after I sat through a seminar at FDIC in Indianapolis in April in which a handful of chiefs said gender is an issue in their departments. My tweets from that session – I was a bit miffed and outspoken! – elicited some interesting replies, so I asked Jen to tackle the issue in her column (flip to the back page in the digital edition of the magazine). Turns out that in some departments, like Six Nations and Georgian Township, gender is not an issue at all! Good thing.

The collapse of the Algo Centre in Elliott Lake and the media coverage provided considerable blog fodder last week. I’d always been a staunch defender of reporters – having been one and having endured my share of nasty calls, letter and e-mails – and, for the most part, I think a majority of reporters got the story right.

Columnists, on the other hand, seem to have forgotten how to check facts or do research. Peter Sells had a bit of a field day going after the likes of Rosie DiManno, Margaret Wente and Joe Warmington for their lazy writing. What gets me is the fact that these guys are given space in national publications to say what they want without the checks and balances to which reporters are subjected – by editors, like me. 

I edit Peter all the time (and Jen and Rob Evans and every one of the writers in our magazines). Extensively. I’ve spiked some of Peter’s blogs because they didn’t fit our mandate, were too far off base or were borderline in terms of taste, interest or relevance. Sometimes we have heated debates about what’s relevant or tasteful. That makes for good journalism. And that’s what editors are for. In all instances, we work together to make sure we’re reporting and writing accurately and adding value for our readers. If a blogger or writer is ranting (as the columnists did) without knowing the subject inside and out, then problems appear – chinks in the armour, cracks in the masonry, holes in the story/column.

That these columnists had the audacity to make assumptions about operational decisions (never mind the political ones), is disappointing and frustrating.

Which just goes to show how much work still needs to be done to educate reporters, columnists and everyone else about what first responders do.

With a public inquiry and a coroner’s inquest in the offing, there’s ample opportunity to fix this.

My rant is over but yours should just be beginning.


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