He­roes of Har­bour Grace

Vol­un­teer fire brigade cel­e­brates suc­cess­ful year with ball

The Compass - - NEWS - BYMELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­ins@tc.tc

One of the long­est serv­ing vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments in the prov­ince cel­e­brated another suc­cess­ful year on Satur­day, Nov. 9.

While some de­part­ments in the prov­ince have folded or strug­gled to main­tain mem­ber­ship, the brigade in Har­bour Grace is still go­ing strong af­ter 183 years. It has re­cruited sev­eral younger mem­bers, and even has one mem­ber — Dave Reg­u­lar — re­main­ing ac­tive af­ter 37 years in the depart­ment.

The night was one to re­mem­ber, as the fire chief — Ray Verge — and fel­low fire­fighter and cold-wa­ter res­cue cap­tain Bill Ryan re­ceived their 20-year medals from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ments.

Verge is only 39, but was re­cently voted in for his third two-year term as fire chief.

Mem­o­rable evening

This year, for­mer fire chief and Har­bour Grace Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams spoke on be­half of the town coun­cil. With her quick wit and hu­mourous ad­dress, Wil­liams kept the crowd laugh­ing with jabs at her­self as well as the coun­cil.

Other mem­bers of the coun­cil were in St. John’s at­tend­ing a con­fer­ence, so Wil­liams took the time to open her speech with an an­nounce­ment that she de­cided to stay home and “save the town some money.” It was fol­lowed by a roar of laugh­ter from the crowd of some 100 sup­port­ers of the depart­ment.

MC Shawn Dob­bin had sev­eral jokes made about his height. One fire­fighter even of­fered him a stool so he could reach the mi­cro­phone. But the fun­ni­est part of the night came while Verge was ad­dress­ing the crowd.

A com­ment was made to Verge last year that his speech was about 45 min­utes in du­ra­tion. Con­tin­u­ously, fire­fight­ers and their wives in the au­di­ence kept yelling out dur­ing his speech, telling him to hurry up.

“That speech was 58 min­utes,” Dob­bin pro­claimed as he re­turned to the mi­cro­phone.

Dur­ing the fi­nal mo­ments of the event, fire­fighter and trea­surer of the ex­ec­u­tive Bob Tet­ford Jr. handed out bou­quets of flow­ers to all the women in the room.

New equip­ment

New equip­ment at a cost of $45,000 ar­rived in re­cent weeks, and was shown off by the depart­ment at the event.

A new set of hy­draulic ex­tri­ca­tion tools, also known as the “jaws of life,” were or­dered ear­lier this year when the depart­ment’s ag­ing ones were no longer up-to-date. The new set uses 208,000 PSI (pounds per square inch), while the older set used about 39,000.

The tarp was lifted, re­veal­ing the five-piece set con­tain­ing a top-of-the-line set of tools, in­clud­ing a spreader, cut­ter, ram, mini-cut­ter, hy­draulic pump and man­ual pump.

Al­though they were not demon­strated, the ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers posed for a photo hold­ing the pieces. Some of the pieces weigh more than 50 pounds.

Re­view­ing 2013

Verge de­scribed four ma­jor fires to the crowd that took place this past year — a phar­macy fire, a garage fire and two house fires.

He called the fire at Sin­yard’s Phar­macy the “most chal­leng­ing as a fire chief.”

“We couldn’t see the fire, just smoke,” he said. “It was hard to bat­tle some­thing you couldn’t see. And the down­stairs in that build­ing … was a maze.”

The fire caused $1 mil­lion in dam­age due to the high costs of med­i­ca­tion and med­i­cal sup­plies that were lost. The build­ing has now been torn down, and is be­ing re­con­structed.

“It was a big loss for the town,” Verge con­tin­ued. “It was the town’s only phar­macy and doc­tor’s clinic.”

The garage fire lead to one struc­ture be­ing de­stroyed, one be­ing burned and one be­ing saved.

The three “sheds” were on the same prop­erty, and the start of the fire cre­ated a domino ef­fect.

Two house fires were de­ter­mined to be cause by faulty prod­ucts. The first, two bat­ter­ies in­side a bat­man suit, and the sec­ond was a lava lamp.

The bat­man fire caused some $100,000 in dam­age.

Luck­ily, the chief said, there were no fir­ere­lated fa­tal­i­ties.

Be­sides the struc­ture fires, the depart­ment also re­sponded to calls for mo­tor ve­hi­cle ac­ci­dents, med­i­cal emer­gen­cies, brush and grass fires, smoke in res­i­dences and one elec­tri­cal fire.

One mem­ber even res­cued a cat from a roof, al­though it was not of­fi­cially an act of duty.

Pho­tos by Melissa Jenk­ins

Fire Chief Ray Verge (cen­tre) is pre­sented with his 20-year awards from the pro­vin­cial and fed­eral gov­ern­ment from long­est serv­ing mem­ber Dave Reg­u­lar (right) and chair­per­son of the Top of the Lad­der Club — a club for re­tired fire­fight­ers — Bob Lynch.

Top of the Lad­der Club chair­per­son Bob Lynch pins a medal on cold wa­ter res­cue cap­tain and 20-year fire­fighter Bill Ryan (left).

The fire depart­ment ex­ec­u­tive poses with the new hy­draulic ex­tri­ca­tion tools at their an­nual fire­fighter’s ball. They are, from left, Crew Chief Paul Snow, Crew Chief Jim Barnes, Jim Ped­dle from Micmac Fire and Safety, Fire Chief Ray Verge, As­sis­tant Fire Chief Dave Earle, Crew Chief Brian Dwyer, Crew Chief Lee Rogers and Trea­surer Bob Tet­ford Jr.

Crew Chief Lee Rogers made one of the most an­tic­i­pated pre­sen­ta­tions of the evening. He awarded his fa­ther, re­tired fire­fighter Char­lie Rogers, with a watch for his 26 years of ser­vice.

Brigade trea­surer Bob Tet­ford Jr. pre­sented each lady in at­ten­dance with a beau­ti­ful bou­quet of flow­ers.

As­sis­tant Fire Chief Dave Earle ac­cepts a 15-year mile­stone award from for­mer chief and cur­rent Har­bour Grace Deputy Mayor So­nia Wil­liams.

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