Heroism is not just running into burning buildings

Next week is Fire Prevention Week in Canada.

Fun fact: Fire Prevention Week is observed each year in October in commemoration of the Great Chicago Fire which started October 8, 1871. It killed approximately 300 people and destroyed roughly 17,500 buildings and 3.3 square miles of the city.

When we think of our fire departments and their services, we focus on the flames.

It’s the running into buildings and the quick response to contain a grass or forest fire before it is out of control.

Those are heroic efforts.

Fire prevention, though, is also a huge part of what our volunteer fire departments contribute. It’s just not so sexy.

Twenty-two years ago I was publishing and editing a newspaper in small town Paris, Ontario.

In this role I covered approximately 384 school fire station tours. At some point I could have easily gone forward and conducted them myself, if given a helmet and a key to the building.

Stop. Drop. Roll. Etc.

At the same time I had a daughter in the town’s co-op preschool, which naturally availed itself of a fire station visit each year.

On that outing Mom was multi-tasking – hovering, and also taking the requisite photos of kids in the trucks, or hugging the fire pole (there was actually a fire pole.)

These tours were almost always led by a volunteer firefighter named John.

John owned a busy garage and had a family.

However he took the time – on approximately 384 occasions – to suit up and talk to kids about fire safety.

That particular year I remember firefighter John getting down on his hands and knees, so as to be at the same level as the children, wearing his gear and a face mask.

He told them: This looks scary. And fires are scary. But you are never to hide in a fire and you are never to hide from someone who looks like me because I will be helping you.

Then he took off his breathing apparatus and showed them he was a real person and not a creature from outer space.

When the school term ended there was, of course, a graduation. Preschool graduation in Ontario is very important, involving caps and gowns, limousines and presents.

The parents’ gift to the teacher – who was quite awesome and really all preschool teachers deserve medals – was a book we made called “What I Learned from Debbie.”

It had a picture of each student and comments about what they got out of their preschool experience.

I learned not to walk up the slide.

I learned tomato juice is yucky.

I learned to wash my hands before snack.

I learned to share. (Totally positive that one was written by a parent.)

And there was one sprite named Stephanie. She had freckles and long dark hair, big brown eyes.

She said: I learned not to hide in a fire.

It was a morning three months later when I picked up the daily paper from a neighboring community and lost my breath.

Stephanie and her family – mom and four kids – had just moved to that city into a rental accommodation that did not have working smoke detectors.

It was destroyed.

One of Stephanie’s brothers suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for weeks. But they all got out alive.

It was later her mom told me the rest of the story.

She said it was her five-year-old daughter who took control when she, herself, was disoriented and panicking.

Stephanie insisted they had to stay low, on the floor, because there is no smoke down there.

She helped find her brothers, who had not been to preschool.

Volunteer firefighters do run into buildings, and they do contain grass and forest fires before they get out of control.

But they also spend uncounted and undramatic hours promoting fire prevention and safety, participating in demonstrations and events and educating the public.

That saves lives, as well.

I wrote about this incident once before, for a newspaper back in the place and the day.

Firefighter John attended the office that week, looking embarrassed and uncomfortable. He said: You made me look like a hero.

DUH.

Just something to think about and appreciate, during Fire Prevention Week.

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
.



andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Ninety-one-year-old Princeton woman votes from the cab of a Ford F-150

Angela Maynard was only ten years old when women in Canada were… Continue reading

Town taps emergency funds to repair museum roof

The municipality is tapping emergency funds to repair the roof of the… Continue reading

Many memories tied to Princeton’s founding family

Art Martens livingsignificantly.ca When four Elders from the Lower Similkameen Indian Band… Continue reading

Grey, damp, warm week ahead in Okanagan, Shuswap, Columbia

Environment Canada calling for clouds and showers, and warm temperatures, throughout the area

Princeton woman honored for helping make town inclusive

“I believe everyone should be included and supported and able to contribute.”… Continue reading

Election 2019: Robert Mellalieu — Green Party candidate for Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Robert Mellalieu is running for the Green Party in Central Okanagan-Similkameen-Nicola

Shuswap ski area vies for $250,000 as top-four finalist in national contest

Help needed to accumulate votes or ‘clicks’ Friday, Oct. 18 through Sunday for trail lighting project

BC Ferries sees steady traffic of post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Ferries filling up fast, sailing waits at some terminals

‘Save the kids!’ Dorian survivor tells the harrowing story of his Canadian wife’s death

Family held a funeral and placed Alishia Liolli’s remains in a niche at a cemetery in Windsor, Ont.

Heiltsuk Nation open first Big House in 120 years in northern B.C.

Opening means the community now has an appropriate space for spiritual and ceremonial events

Singh says NDP would form coalition with the Liberals to stop Tories

Singh was in a Liberal-held riding Sunday afternoon in Surrey where he was pressed about his post-election intentions

‘My heart goes out to the mother’: B.C. dad reacts to stabbing death of Ontario boy

Carson Crimeni, who was also 14, was bullied relentlessly, his dad says

BC Ferries filling up fast with post-Thanksgiving weekend travellers

Monday anticipated to be busiest day of the weekend

Morning Start: How old is the Canadian Thanksgiving tradition?

Your morning start for Monday, October 14th, 2019

Most Read