Re­plac­ing ag­ing equip­ment tops bri­gade’s pri­or­ity list

The Compass - - EDITORIAL OPINION - BY BILL BOW­MAN

When the new ex­ec­u­tive took over the reins of the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade in Jan­uary of this year, the first thing they did was take a hard look at their pri­or­i­ties for the year ahead.

Fire Chief Ray Verge made the re­mark be­fore about 80 fire­fight­ers, aux­il­iary mem­bers and guests who turned out at the Fire­men’s So­cial Build­ing Nov. 12 for the bri­gade’s an­nual fire­fight­ers’ ball.

In his first an­nual re­port as chief, Verge said, “with many tough chal­lenges and de­ci­sions fac­ing the bri­gade, a strat­egy to re­place our ag­ing fleet was at the top of our to-do list.”

Af­ter do­ing their home­work and mak­ing their case to govern­ment, the chief was pleased to re­port they were able to se­cure fund­ing for a new res­cue pumper truck.

Car­bon­ear-har­bour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy and Mu­nic­i­pal Af­fairs Min­is­ter Kevin O’brien came to Har­bour Grace in early July to an­nounce $250,000 in provin­cial govern­ment fund­ing for the new equip­ment.

At the time Verge told The Com­pass the new ve­hi­cle would ac­tu­ally be a com­bi­na­tion of three ve­hi­cles with res­cue, equip­ment stor­age and pumper fea­tures.

Aside from fight­ing fires, the “full­func­tion ve­hi­cle” will also be used to re­spond to every­thing from mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents to high an­gle and cold­wa­ter res­cues.

Re­fer­ring to the $350,000 cost of the equip­ment, Chief Verge added last week, “I’m sure Min­is­ter Kennedy is go­ing to tell me to bring that fig­ure down a bit.”

The new truck “will not only re­place two of our ag­ing ve­hi­cles, but will en­hance our re­gional ser­vices to the greater CBN area. We an­tic­i­pate de­liv­ery of our new truck in early spring of next year,” he said.

Nat­u­ral Re­sources Min­is­ter Jerome Kennedy said since be­com­ing an MHA he’s be­come fa­mil­iar with the “mul­ti­fac­eted role vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments play, with their pri­mary con­cern al­ways be­ing the pro­tec­tion of their com­mu­nity.”

Ac­knowl­edg­ing Har­bour Grace as a very ac­tive bri­gade, Kennedy felt it was “im­por­tant to rec­og­nize the role you play as vol­un­teers, not only in terms of all the ac­tiv­i­ties in town, but the fact you are will­ing to put your­selves in dan­ger for other mem­bers of your com­mu­nity. Too of­ten we take for granted the role you play and the dan­ger you put your­selves in,” the MHA ob­served.

Af­ter recit­ing a litany of some of the 35-40 events and ac­tiv­i­ties the bri­gade takes part in an­nu­ally from his 10-page re­port, Verge quipped, “Oh, did I men­tion we re­spond to fire calls?”

Har­bour Grace did not record any fa­tal­i­ties this year caused by fire.

How­ever, the chief noted their cold­wa­ter res­cue team was called to an in­ci­dent in Bear’s Cove in June, where there was “a re­port of an over­turned boat and what ap­peared to be a per­son in the water.”

Work­ing with Coast Guard, the team was able to re­cover the body of a lob­ster fish­er­man who had been re­ported miss­ing ear­lier that day.

In an­other in­ci­dent, ear­lier this spring, the bri­gade’s ve­hi­cle ex­tri­ca­tion and high an­gle res­cue teams re­sponded to a mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dent in­volv­ing a mini van in Salmon Cove, which also turned out to in­volve a fa­tal­ity.

The bri­gade saw in­creases in the numbers of mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents, both in town and on the Vet­er­ans Me­mo­rial High­way, as well as ve­hi­cle fires, and cold­wa­ter emer­gen­cies, the chief re­ported.

They were called to as­sist am­bu­lances and to pro­vide mu­tual aid to neigh­bour­ing fire de­part­ments.

They re­sponded to busi­ness and res­i­den­tial fire alarm sound­ings and the smell of smoke in­side a home.

Boat, elec­tri­cal, grass and brush fires were also in­cluded among the emer­gency calls re­ceived.

Fire­fight­ers were called to a house on Stratton’s Hill where light­ning had struck and dam­aged a shed dur­ing a rain­storm.

“We even had a call to the old CBN In­cin­er­a­tor site,” the chief noted, adding, “we haven’t been in there for a while.”

In ac­cept­ing a $500 do­na­tion from the ladies aux­il­iary, Chief Verge paid trib­ute to its pres­i­dent, Mau­reen Maher, for her 38 years of ded­i­cated ser­vice to the fire bri­gade, as a mem­ber of the aux­il­iary.

Call­ing her the “mother ship and the back bone of the bri­gade,” Verge said Maher has pro­vided “a solid sup­port for the bri­gade” when­ever they needed some­thing done. Maher also sits on the board of di­rec­tors as club man­ager.

For the first time in the his­tory of the bri­gade, Verge re­ported, “we saw three crew chiefs giv­ing train­ing be­cause train­ing our mem­bers is so very im­por­tant.”

Led by Paul Snow, the bri­gade’s train­ing divi­sion in­cludes Shawn Baker and Brian Dwyer. They have been keep­ing fire­fight­ers up to date with new and chang­ing tech­niques and tech­nol­ogy.

Be­ing sur­rounded by a “well­trained, well-or­ga­nized and pro­fes­sional group of in­di­vid­u­als,” Verge said, “my job be­comes much eas­ier, less stress­ful and more en­joy­able.”

Verge has be­come the first fire chief in Har­bour Grace to have been elected to a two-year term, af­ter the bri­gade changed its rules for elec­tion last year. Four other ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers have also been elected for two-year terms.

Look­ing for­ward to lead­ing the bri­gade over the next two years, Verge promised, “we’ll over­come the dif­fi­cult chal­lenges, which lie ahead and con­tinue serv­ing our com­mu­nity as we have been for 181 years.”

Founded in 1830, the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade is the prov­ince’s old­est vol­un­teer fire depart­ment.

Brian Penny of the Cana­dian Coast Guard presents Charles Archibald with a cer­tifi­cate on be­half of the fed­eral govern­ment for his 30 years of ser­vice to the Har­bour Grace Vol­un­teer Fire Bri­gade. Archibald also re­ceived a sim­i­lar award from the prov­ince.

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