Grand Falls-Wind­sor fire­fighter hon­oured for 45 years of ser­vice

Dave Byrne says it was re­ward­ing to serve the com­mu­nity

Advertiser (Grand Falls) - - Front Page - BY SA­MAN­THA GARDINER

GRAND FALLS-WIND­SOR, NL – He was just 17 years old when he joined the Grand Falls-Wind­sor Fire Depart­ment on Oct. 24, 1972.

Forty- five years later, Dave Byrne is still serv­ing as a vol­un­teer fire­fighter.

At the an­nual fire­fighter’s ball on Satur­day night past, he was rec­og­nized for his 45 years of ser­vice.

Byrne told the Ad­ver­tiser the most re­ward­ing as­pect of be­ing a fire­fighter is help­ing peo­ple in their time of need. “Your adren­a­line runs and you for­get ev­ery­thing else,” he said. “You’re run­ning in when ev­ery­one else is run­ning away. It gives you a feel­ing of achieve­ment… be­ing able to help peo­ple gives you that spe­cial lit­tle feel­ing.”

To be a vol­un­teer fire­fighter means spend­ing count­less hours and some­times days away from your fam­ily, and not just fight­ing fires and sav­ing peo­ples’ homes. Fire­fight­ers help peo­ple stuck in snow­storms, as­sist am­bu­lances, and at­tend road­side ve­hi­cle col­li­sions, some­times us­ing ex­trac­tion equip­ment to get peo­ple out.

As a fire­fighter, you must put the needs of your com­mu­nity and neigh­bors ahead of your own, Byrne ex­plained.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent adren­a­line rush when you’re on the front lines and help­ing peo­ple. If you don’t get that rush and (other things are more im­por­tant to you) you’re not de­signed for this,” said Byrne.

His fam­ily has been home alone dur­ing storms while he was out help­ing other fam­i­lies; they would have to call for as­sis­tance just like any­one else, he said.

“If I was self­ish I would have said I can’t come to those calls, I have my own fam­ily at home. You put your own fam­ily ba­si­cally in line with every­body else that needs help. “If 40 men said ‘lis­ten, I’ve got to take care of my fam­ily first,’ then there’s no one to go out and take care of any­body else’s fam­ily,” Byrne said.

Over his 45 years with the fire depart­ment Byrne has seen a lot of ma­jor fires and rescues. He was only in the fire depart­ment for a year when he wit­nesses two fa­tal­i­ties at a fire.

“I was only 18 years old and I hardly knew what death was … that sticks in my mind as prob­a­bly one of the first things that I re­mem­ber,” he said.

Thank­fully for Byrne, he only re­lives cer­tain mem­o­ries when he is talk­ing about them and does not suf­fer post- trau­matic stress dis­or­der ( PTSD), which he sees is ram­pant amongst first re­spon­ders. “It’s only when you’re talk­ing about it that you ac­tu­ally see it – other than that, it’s put into this lit­tle vault, I sup­pose. Some peo­ple can put the lock on the vault and some peo­ple can’t… not to say I’ll never be af­fected but up un­til now it hasn’t. “I’ve known fire­fight­ers who have seen things that have ended their ca­reers. I’ve have no re­oc­cur­rence of dreams about [ events] so hope­fully they’re just locked away,” he added.

Byrne re­cently re­tired from his 30-year ca­reer with the Canada Rev­enue Agency, but he has no plans to re­tire from the fire depart­ment just yet.

“The key is when the alarm goes off and you still get that but­ter­fly feel­ing, you’re still there,” said Byrne.

SA­MAN­THA GARDINER PHOTO

Dave Byrne served the Grand Falls-Wind­sor Fire Depart­ment for 45 years.

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