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From the editor: Credit where credit is due

One of the things I promised to do with this magazine was raise the profile of some of the most valuable, and most undervalued, people in our society: volunteer firefighters.

October 30, 2008
By Laura King


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One of the things I promised to do with this magazine was raise the profile of some of the most valuable, and most undervalued, people in our society: volunteer firefighters.

Friday the 13th is traditionally considered a day of ominous fate. True to form, the fire that started in the Lake Echo-Porters Lake area east of Halifax on Friday, June 13, was a bad one.

Despite the carnage inflicted by the fire over that windy, humid weekend, and a second wildfire on the west side of the Halifax Regional Municipality at the same time, it will be remembered as a triumph for the fire services. And, in particular, the volunteers.

The Lake Echo fire measured 15 kilometres in length and three kilometres wide at one point. It triggered the evacuation of 5,000 people and destroyed two homes. It was by any measure a major emergency in a suburban area.

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And yet, the residents of that area, and those near the smaller Tantallon blaze on the other side of the regional municipality, were lucky.

Lucky that the fire happened on a weekend when the hundreds of volunteers around the county were home and able to devote endless effort to the fight.

They were lucky that their communities have men and women who give up their time to train and serve their communities for such emergencies.

Lucky indeed.

The municipalities around Halifax amalgamated in 1996, leading to the creation of the Halifax Regional Fire & Emergency Service. Urban wildfires are not common in Nova Scotia, nor are even major forest fires – the 1968 Cape Smokey fire in Cape Breton being a notable exception.

And certainly, there are bigger wildfires in Canada every summer. When I lived in Edmonton there were many days when smoke filled the air from massive fires in northern Alberta or Saskatchewan.

And in terms of urban wildfires, the 2003 Kelowna fire was a disaster that dwarfed the Nova Scotia blazes.

But what caught my eye and admiration from the Nova Scotia experience was the way everyone talked of the work of the volunteer firefighters.

As James Careless recounts in his review of the Halifax fires on page 24, the volunteers were the primary firefighting force over the humid June weekend in Nova Scotia.

The co-ordination of the effort of career and volunteer firefighters, along with provincial government personnel and equipment, and others, was almost textbook.

The volunteers worked with the career firefighters to bring the blazes to their knees and in so doing they highlighted the value of the volunteers to their communities.

Well done.


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