By Laura King
May 6, 2014, Toronto - Time to play catch up on what’s been a whirlwind of a week – and it’s only Tuesday.
Golf. Last Friday. If you’re a golfer you know that the first day out in the spring never-ending-cold-wet-windy-post-winter is always an adventure, particularly if it has rained steadily for a week and the temperature hasn’t risen above 6 C. Layers were wise. A little something in the morning caffeinated beverage of choice may have been wiser.
My foursome – Toronto Deputy Chief Debbie Higgins (whose first drive of the day, with a neon pink ball, was spectacular), Oakville Deputy Chief Andy Glynn (our ringer – rhymes with zinger!), Brad Bigrigg, program manager for the OAFC’s new candidate testing services and an occasional golfer, and me – had moments of brilliance; sadly, those were the witty one-liners spat regularly at each other rather than spectacular drives or perfect putts, but we did agree that if there were a prize for most honest we would have won hands down.
We apologize to, and thank, the members of the team behind us who retrieved two of our clubs left on a previous hole (there’s no need to be specific here about whose clubs they were – but one of them was baby blue, as is my golf jacket!), for their patience as we exercised some search and rescue techniques and, at one point, a near firefighter (chief) rescue from a rapidly moving creek.
Congratulations to repeat winners M&L Supply Team 2 Scott Maracle, Ian Maracle, Steve Rose and David Aitken who came in at 12 under – impressive given the conditions.
Fire Fighting in Canada partnered for the tournament this year with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) – and although timing and the wonky weather may have kept some fair weather golfers away, the day was a success with manufacturers, suppliers and distributors, and chief officers networking between holes and at our BBQ afterwards. Any day on the links – good, bad or no-one’s-really-sure-because-we-stopped-keeping-score really is better than a good day in the office!
Our Ladders Up event Saturday night raised $26,500 for the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation and emcee – Dryden Chief Ken Kurz – was worth the price of admission (editor’s note: admission was free!).
The band Better Under Fire rocked the house – and the venue, the atrium at the Toronto Congress Centre, was perfect; those who appreciated the live music but not the volume were able to drift to the back to network while others enjoyed the mosh pit at the front! Kidding, although there were some impressive dance moves by certain members of the Marmora & Lake Fire Services, and the Toronto Pipes and Drums put on an fabulous show!
The music was fabulous, the food was fantastic, the auctioneer occasionally paid attention to the directions he was given from FFIC sales manager Catherine Connolly, but otherwise winged it (I was told to say that!) and a full house of fire officers and fire-service suppliers opened their wallets to benefit children and spouses of fallen firefighters. You can see photos of the event here. Congratulations to the organizing committee which has, over three years, raised $82,500!
The OAFC conference opened Saturday and runs through Wednesday; the trade show ran Sunday and Monday. Our Firehall Bookstore booth did booming business – and having authors Mark van der Feyst and Lyle Quan in the house made for a bit of a celebrity atmosphere!
On Sunday, I was invited by Code 4’s Jason Defosse to stop by for a Hurst demo at 1 p.m. “We’ll put you in gear,” he said, “and you can participate.” OK, I thought, sounds good, I’ll learn something and it will be one-on-one with Jason so he can wield the heavy tools and I can do the fun part – cutting – and ran to grab something to wear under the bunker gear that was more appropriate than a business suit and heels.
When I arrived back at the appointed hour, a large crowd had gathered (including many of the Conestoga College pre-service students I had spoken to in February about fire-service media) and Jason was introducing (loudly), to applause, his special guest – moi! – who was going to help to demo the Hurst eDraulics. What??
I flashed back to the drive to Peace River last April in the middle of the night after a delayed flight during which Deputy Chief Kieran Moore of Grande Prairie said, “So, you’re the keynote speaker for the conference,” and I said, “No, no, not the keynote, it’s just a breakout session,” and he said “Ohhhh, yes you are.” Bit of a shocker. Turns out Jason Defosse was as light on details of the demo as Peace River Fire Chief Lance Bushie had been about my presentation. Yes, it’s better to beg forgiveness than ask permission. So, always a good sport, I cut pillars, pretended that the tools weren’t nearly as heavy as they are (Jason tosses them around like matchsticks, of course), but was suitably impressed by the portability and efficiency – no cords to connect and trip over, no hydraulic fluid. Needless to say, helmet hair and a rather flushed face ensued but I learned a lot and Jason put on a spectacular demo. For a big crowd. Forgiveness granted.
The trade show floor was buzzing Sunday and Monday and vendors seemed suitably satisfied with the crowd and the shopping – people were buying, not just looking. I was asked years ago by the Simcoe County chiefs to take a group photo at the show and I have done so every year since – this year in front of the new Orillia rescue command unit that’s on display at the show.
The county chiefs traditionally have t-shirts made that they unveil Monday afternoon at the show then wear to events throughout the year. Apparently there had been some, uh, debate about this year’s version – an interesting red/maroon and black version of the Two-And-A-Half Men style button-up, un-tucked (did someone say bowling?), relaxed-style shirt. Which may be so, but it was certainly easy to pick out the Simcoe County chiefs from the crowd!
After the photo shoot – which is usually a herding-cats type of affair but this year someone suggested they choose a time and all meet at a designated spot (you’d think a bunch of fire chiefs . . . ). Anyway, tall guys in the back, less tall in the front and the shoot was done. After which Orillia Deputy Chief Jeff Kirk was kind enough to present me with my own version of the Simcoe County chiefs shirt – in lovely two-tone grey (which was, apparently, the choice of many who aren’t so keen on the red/maroon and black – oops!). Given that I am taller than most women (and many fire chiefs!), Jeff was concerned about the size of the shirt that had been ordered for me and wanted to be sure it fit. Jeff is . . . diminutive. I am . . . not, so I could appreciate that Jeff’s perspective may be different than those of his taller peers. But a word to the wise: men asking women about clothing sizes should choose their words carefully! The shirt fits fine Jeff, it’s actually a little large! Thanks guys!
More (serious stuff) tomorrow on the conference and speakers but one final tidbit for today: Those Simcoe County chiefs (they tend to travel as a pack) are staying at an alternate hotel than most conference delegates – they wanted to be closer to the venue and avoid shuttle buses. Good option. Until this morning when a gaggle of them became trapped in a stuck elevator and had to be rescued by Toronto Fire Services. There’s irony there somewhere!