Stop the ignorance
With all the controversial cuts coming out of Ottawa in recent days, there are no shortage of topics on which to take a broadside at Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Conservative government.
But as tempting as it is, we have decided to direct our sights a little closer to home, and comment on the attitudes of some people as it relates to the unselfish work being done by volunteer fire departments in our region. As community journalists, we often find ourselves at the scene of emergencies such as fires and vehicle accidents. As such, we see these men and women in action, putting their lives on the line and doing their utmost to protect persons and property.
But we’ve encountered a darker side as well in recent weeks, and we believe it’s worth sharing in this space. The first instance occurred April 18 as volunteers with the Bay de Grave brigade were battling a house fire in Clarke’s Beach that claimed the life of an elderly woman. Several weeks later, the woman’s husband, who was being treated for smoke inhalation, also passed away.
There were dozens of onlookers at the scene, leaning on fence posts and watching and critiquing every move. Several people openly criticized the brigade’s response time, despite the fact that Chief Jeremy Hall said the first pumper was on the scene within nine minutes of the first call for assistance. We are aware that such talk continued for days afterwards in some circles.
And more recently, the Carbonear Fire Department was called to a shed fire in the neighbouring community of Freshwater on May 22. According to Chief Ed Kavanagh, the first unit was on the scene about five minutes after the emergency call came into the switchboard at Carbonear General Hospital.
Despite the swift response, Kavanagh admitted last week that as his members — clad is heavy bunker suits and other safety gear — were directing water onto the fire and dragging around hoses, in temperatures just under 30 C, someone had the nerve to complain about the response time.
Being the professionals they are, Kavanagh and his team shrugged off the comment and went about their duties.
But later, Kavanagh acknowledged that he was stung by the criticism, and went to great lengths to emphasize that his department responds just as quickly and efficiently to a call in Freshwater as it would to a call in Carbonear.
In our view, these incidents are shameful and a flagrant display of ignorance. Here’s why. These men and women are volunteers. Most have jobs and families, yet they drop everything at a moment’s notice, whether it’s a family meal, duties at a workplace, or a peaceful sleep at night. They move with great haste to their personal vehicles and either go straight to the scene of the emergency or to the fire station to get the trucks rolling. They never know what awaits them, yet they don’t hesitate.
In the case of the fire in Clarke’s Beach, several volunteers left workplaces as far away as Holyrood and Long Harbour, and one man suffered a serious leg injury as he briskly attempted to get water flowing onto the fire.
Again, these are volunteers. They could easily turn their heads and flash a raised palm, but that’s not how these people are engineered. They care and they speak with their actions, instead of standing on the sidelines. They are to be commended, respected and supported. Not criticized and second-guessed.
Those who believe they can do so much better should step forward and prove it.