Heroes of Harbour Grace
Volunteer fire brigade celebrates successful year with ball
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.
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 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.
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.
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.