Still strong af­ter 40 years

Up­per Is­land Cove Fire Depart­ment cel­e­brates im­por­tant mile­stone

The Compass - - OPINION - BY TO­BIAS RO­MA­NIUK SPE­CIAL TO THE COM­PASS

Lean times

Forty years ago, the char­ter mem­bers of the Up­per Is­land Cove fire depart­ment didn’t have pagers or ra­dios to alert them to an emer­gency call.

In­stead, the newly es­tab­lished depart­ment had a bell at their fire hall that could be heard throughout the town, re­calls char­ter mem­ber Ed­ward Mercer.

When that bell went off, Mercer and the other mem­bers would rush to the hall.

“Who­ever the first three peo­ple were there took the truck and left, and then left a note at the fire hall where the fire was and ev­ery­one just fol­lowed,” he re­called.

Those early days were lean times for the fire depart­ment, who had just one truck and bought ev­ery­thing else out of money they fundraised, of­ten by go­ing door to door, said Mercer.

Four decades later, a lot has changed, but much has stayed the same as well.

The depart­ment still re­lies heav­ily on fundrais­ing and do­na­tions for new equip­ment, and while they up­graded to ra­dios and pagers over the years, those are still in short sup­ply.

Or rather were, since Port de Grave MHA Glenn Littlejohn an­nounced dur­ing a speech at the ball that his gov­ern­ment would be giv­ing the depart­ment $5,500 for the pur­chase of new pagers.

And they still go door-to-door sell­ing raf­fle tick­ets to raise funds, while the community still gra­ciously do­nates to the fire depart­ment.

Many of those peo­ple will do­nate money with­out tak­ing a ticket, said Chief Har­vey Mercer, talk­ing to the Com­pass at the depart­ment meet-and-greet be­fore the ball.

“The sup­port is there, and we ap­pre­ci­ate it big time,” he said, adding the Firettes do a lot of fundrais­ing for the depart­ment.

That sup­port has al­lowed the depart­ment to add ve­hi­cles to their fleet, and to up­grade the fire hall from its for­mer gravel-floored ver­sion to a fully equipped fire hall that serves as the base for a depart­ment that has seen a change in the type of calls they re­spond to.

The depart­ment is of­ten the first place peo­ple call for an emer­gency, whether it’s a ve­hi­cle col­li­sion, house fire, or med­i­cal emer­gency, said Mercer.

“Nine chances out of 10 they’ll call us first,” he said.

Calls de­clin­ing

Those calls — about 115 in the past year — are more of­ten than not for med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, and the depart­ment has re­sponded with the ap­pro­pri­ate train­ing of its mem­bers.

They have an EMR on staff, and Mercer said other mem­bers are in the process of be­ing trained to be­come cer­ti­fied emer­gency med­i­cal re­spon­ders.

“The only thing we can’t do is trans­port,” said Mercer, who no­ticed fire calls are de­clin­ing.

Usu­ally, the depart­ment is called to fight fires more of­ten than they re­spond to med­i­cal calls, but this year saw the depart­ment’s call ra­tio tip to a 60 per cent med­i­cal, 40 per cent fire call bal­ance.

But re­spond­ing to emer­gency calls isn’t all they do. The depart­ment led an ini­tia­tive to de­velop an emer­gency re­sponse plan for the community, Mayor Ge­orge Adams told ball at­ten­dees dur­ing a speech.

That plan was de­vel­oped in part­ner­ship with the Town of Up­per Is­land Cove, and then sent off for ap­proval to the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment. Adams was told Fri­day af­ter­noon that the plan is now ready to be signed off.

Whether it’s emer­gency plan­ning, emer­gency ser­vices, or di­rect­ing traf­fic at a parade, the fire depart­ment is there, said the mayor.

“No mat­ter what it is, you can al­ways count on the vol­un­teer fire depart­ment to take an ac­tive lead­er­ship role,” he said.

to­bias.ro­ma­niuk@gmail.com

Fire Chief Har­vey Mercer (right) presents First As­sis­tant Chief Dar­ren Mercer with the fire­fighter-of-the-year award at the depart­ment’s an­nual fire­fight­ers’ ball.

An­nette Mercer presents Robin Drover with the Joe Coombs Memo­rial Award, given to the mem­ber with the best at­ten­dance at all func­tions, meet­ings, and ser­vice calls in the past year.

Robin Drover, and other mem­bers of the Up­per Is­land Cove fire depart­ment, as well as cadets, helped serve din­ner to guests at the Up­per Is­land Cove fire­fight­ers ball be­fore sit­ting down to en­joy a meal them­selves.

Dar­ren Mercer and Richard Mercer, per­form­ing a coun­try-tinged song hon­our­ing the work of fire­fight­ers.

MHA Glenn Littlejohn (right) presents Fire Chief Har­vey Mercer with a cer­tifi­cate ac­knowl­edg­ing the depart­ment’s 40th an­niver­sary.

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