Historic brigade moving into the future
Harbour Grace firefighters bolstered by new truck; response system
The fire brigade in Harbour Grace may be considered one of the oldest in the province, but it doesn’t take a back seat to any when it comes to training, equipment and technological advances.
The latest evidence of this was unveiled during the brigade’s annual firefighters’ ball on Nov. 10.
During his report, Chief Ray Verge announced the brigade is investing in a new system called I Am Responding, a Web-based program that, among other things, gives an up-to-the-second account of who is responding to an emergency call , whether th ey are responding to the fire hall or directly to the emergency scene, and when they will be responding.
The system is designed to reduce response times.
Verge and other members of the department were introduced to the technology during a conference in Nova Scotia this past summer, and were immediately sold
ABOUT THE HARBOUR GRACE VOLUNTEER FIRE
• Executive — Chief Ray Verge, Assistant Chief Dave Earle, Secretary Doug Taylor, Treasurer Robert Tetford Jr., and crew chiefs Brian Dwyer, Paul Snow, Lee Rogers, Jim Barnes, Shawn Baker and Stephen Sullivan; • Firefighters — Dave Regular, Andrew Archibald, Bill Ryan, Derrick Dove, Alf Dove, Paul Ash, Philiip Peddle, Shawn Dobbin, John Sheehan, Paul Sullivan, Dave Squires, Pat Hearn, Craig Williams, David Green, Mark Snow, Charles Archibald, Jason McCarthy, Stephen Taylor, Adam Sheppard, Chris Noseworthy, Wayne Smith, Stephen Verge, Wade Luffman, Rick Davis, Pat Haire, Sonia Williams and Peter Butt; • Auxiliary executive — president Maureen Maher, vice-president Natalie Verge, secretary Dawn Butt, and treasurer Jackie Luffman; • Board of directors — Chief Ray Verge, club manager Maureen Maher, Phil Taylor, Jackie Luffman, Edgar Snow, Wayne Smith, Lloyd Pike, Jason McCarthy, Bill Kennedy and Heather McCarthy. • Emergency number — 596-5151 • Training — Tuesday evenings • Established — 182 years ago • On the web — http://www.hgvfb.com/ on its benefits.
“A lot of times we’re here at the hall and we don’t know if we have other members coming. We have no real accountability. A lot of times we leave the fire hall with empty seats and we have guys just taking the corner here on Bannerman Street,” said Verge.
“Now, we can see that we have 20 guys responding to the fire hall. So if crew chief Paul Snow is the officer-in-charge and we leave right away with the first six guys, he can be sure we have another seven or eight guys coming.”
Here’s how it works. When an emergency call is received, the dis- patcher sends out a detailed page to firefighters, along with a text to their personal mobile telecommunication devices. Firefighters can advi se of t h eir intentions by responding with a pre-determined message on their devices. This message is then displayed on a monitor at the fire hall, giving the office-incharge a real- time view of the response effort.
The system will also track each members’ training time and course completions, attendance, and allow for full incident reporting and much more.
Verge described I Am Responding as an “awesome” program, and said Harbour Grace is likely the first brigade in the province to use it.
New multi-role pumper
Its introduction comes on the heels of the arrival of the brigade’s new custom multi- role rescue pumper, which has been in service since this summer and has already proved its worth on several occasions, most recently during a violent head- on collision on Veterans Memorial Highway that resulted in the death of one male driver and serious injuries to a second.
Some firefighters on the SCBA team are also wearing new carbonfibre air cylinders that are substantially lighter than the steel tanks, Verge explained.
And the cold-water rescue team, under the guidance of team leader Bill Ryan, has benefitted from an investment of some $ 25,000 in recent years. The team includes 10 rescue technicians and 24 members trained to an “awareness and operational” level, said Verge.
The brigade also has a highly trained extrication team, which Verge said did a “fabulous job” at the Nov. 5 highway tragedy.
Assistant Chief Dave Earle, who was MC for the ball , said the brigade as come a long way from the days of “long black coats, plastic helmets and orange gloves” that were better known as “fire balls.”
These advances are symbolic of a brigade that takes great pride in its service to the town and the region, Mayor Don Coombs stated in his address to those gathered at the Hydrant Club.
Coombs said the brigade has the enduring respect and appreciation of the town council, and praised the members for another tremendous year.
“We respect you and the many sacrifices you make for your town and the surrounding region,” he said.
Coombs described the volunteer efforts of the brigade as “priceless” and “extraordinary.”
Verge gave a detailed account of the brigade’s involvement in the community over the past year, ranging from the Christmas parade and the Summer Games to the Harbour Grace Regatta and fundraising efforts for the local health foundation. He said the demand for inspections also spiked this year.
His message was especially earnest when the topic turned to attendance and commitment. He said the issue has been the subject of discussion and recent executive meetings, and he pleaded with members to honour their commitment to the brigade.
“You volunteer to fill out the application” to join the brigade, said Verge. “Everything after that is mandatory. This is not like any other group in your community.”
Verge offered special praise to Maureen Maher, who is president of the Auxiliary and manager of the Hydrant Club. Maher is affectionately known as “Mother Ship” around the Hydrant Club.
“She’s always been solid for the brigade,” said Verge. “I’m not sure what we would do with his building if we didn’t have her.”
Verge also thanked the entire auxiliary, those who serve as dispatchers, members of the Top of the Ladder Club (retirees), and staff and council members with the Town of Harbour Grace. He said they provide a “great service” to the brigade.
Verge also came in for plenty of praise, with firefighter Bill Ryan noting, “We’re proud of how far Ray has come.”
Dave R e g u l a r (right) was honoured for his 35 years of dedicated service to the Harbour Grace Volunteer Fire Brigade, while Stephen Verge received a 20-year exemplary service award from the provincial and federal governments.