What a year
Bay de Grave fire department celebrates inaugural year of service
The new Bay de Grave regional volunteer fire department has completed what many have described as a “tremendous” first year. But those close to the brigade say its continued success will hinge on whether new recruits step forward to help.
“ We welcome new members with open arms,” Junior Taylor stated April 9 during the brigade’s first firefighter’s ball, which was held in South River. More than 200 people packed the Knights of Columbus building for the event.
Taylor is chair of the 10-member Bay de Grave regional municipal services corporation, which oversees the brigade on behalf of five communities — North River, Clarke’s Beach, South River, Cupids and Makinsons.
A representative of the provincial Fire Commissioner’s Office, Greg Lynch, also called upon willing volunteers — men and women — to consider joining the brigade.
“ The friendships you make and the skills you acquire are invaluable,” he said. “And even though you don’t get paid for it, it’s a professional vocation. So it’s really something worthwhile.”
Bay de Grave was activated in March 2010 following several years of discussions among the communities. The provincial government injected a significant amount of money to construct a new fire hall in South River and purchase a new pumper truck.
The fire brigade in Cupids was deactivated, with most of its members now forming the core of the Bay de Grave department.
With only 16 members, it’s generally acknowledged that more personnel are needed, which makes the accomplishments of those involved even more significant.
“ You are a success story and we have been promoting this as the way it can be done,” Lynch stated. He said there are many struggling departments across the province that could consider a regional approach similar to the one undertaken in Bay de Grave.
“It’s amazing to see what a group like you can accomplish,” Lynch added. “ The Bay de Grave firefighters are as well-trained as anybody.”
There was considerable praise for the efforts of Chief Jeremy Hall, described by Harbour Main MHA and Transportation and Works Minister Tom Hedderson as “probably the highest trained volunteer chief ” in the province.
The brigade handed out 36 training certificates at the ball for everything from defensive firefighting and vehicle extrication to marine firefighting for land-based firefighters.
Hall said many members underwent upwards of 50 hours of training this past year.
“ This is a very dedicated group,” he said. Hall thanked the “ Wildfires” ladies’ group for their support of the brigade.
There was a sombre tone throughout the formal proceedings as various speakers paid tribute to Frank Bishop Jr., who died in a plane crash in Labrador on May 26, 2010.
Bishop was a member of the brigade, served on the regional services board, and was a councillor with the Town of Cupids. He was instrumental in helping activate the department, said Taylor.
“ We leaned on Frank quite a lot, and we’re very sad that he’s not with us tonight,” Taylor said.
But Bishop’s legacy on the fire department is very much alive. His daughter, Cassandra, joined the brigade late last year; his son, Gregory, his brothers, Aubrey and Paul, and his nephews, David and Andrew Bishop and Claude Garland, are members; Bishop’s widow, Bernice, was seen at a recent structure fire, helping support the firefighters; and Bishop’s father, Frank Sr., is an honorary member.
“ You’ve suffered quite a loss and we’re quite proud of how you’ve responded,” said Lynch.
“Even though it’s your first year, there is a tremendous legacy that you are carrying on here,” Hedderson added.
The brigade responded to 22 calls for assistance in its first year.
Fire Chief Jeremy Hall was saluted by his fellow officers and firefighters during the first Bay de Grave firefighters’ ball in North River on April 9. Each member of the brigade lined up to shake Hall’s hand, including “Conky,” the brigade’s mascot.