Replacing aging equipment tops brigade’s priority list
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.