Fire department going strong after 40 years
Spaniard’s Bay celebrates a milestone, four decades of volunteer involvement
There wasn’t an empty seat in the house at the Royal Canadian Legion in Spaniard’s Bay on Saturday, Jan. 25 for the annual firefighters’ ball, and for good reason.
A milestone celebration, fitted with beautiful red, black and white décor and hosting some 250 guests, was highlighted by an abundance of appreciation, kind words and special awards.
For 40 years the department has been a big part of the community by putting out fires, helping during car accidents and even helping cats out of trees.
The evening began with the saying of the Firefighter’s Prayer by firefighter Chris Smith. It was followed by a roast beef dinner, which was served while a slideshow of memories from the past 40 years played on a projection screen near the head table.
Past and present firefighters could be seen in the photos accepting awards, doing fire training, fighting fires and so much more.
Whispers, laughter and chatter could be heard throughout the hall as each photo appeared on the screen.
The room was filled with special guests, including members from neighbouring departments, the town council and some provincial and federal representatives.
The chief from the Upper Island Cove brigade, Harvey Mercer, presented a plaque to the department for its 40 years of service. Upper Island Cove celebrated the same milestone late last year.
MC for the event and former principal of Holy Redeemer Elementary, Robert Lundrigan, gave a heartfelt address to the group.
“We all go home and go to bed at night, not thinking that fire alarm is going to go off,” he told the large, attentive crowd.
He explained that is exactly what can happen to anyone and firefighters are the ones that get up in the middle of the night to go help those in distress.
“These people are ordinary men and women,” Lundrigan continued. “It’s not extraordinary men and women that make a difference in the world, it’s ordinary men and women who do extraordinary things.
“I ask that all firefighters please stand.”
Those from Spaniard’s Bay, Bay Roberts and Upper Island Cove departments stood, as did former firefighters.
Lundrigan explained he would play some music, and asked the remainder of the audience to walk around and show their appreciation for those who have placed themselves in harm’s way for the benefit of the community.
The buzz of activity began. Hugs, handshakes and kisses were shared amongst the crowd. Every single firefighter appeared to be feeling the love, especially from other firefighters, who waited for the stir to calm before making their own way around to shake hands.
Although the beginning of the event was a time of reflection, this was a turning point. Once the praise and thanks began, it continued on for the rest of the evening.
Former firefighter and founding member Rick Roberts was on hand for his first department event in five years.
Roberts was the longest serving member of the department — 35 years — but due to a family situation he was unable to receive the recognition when he stepped away five years ago.
An emotion Chief Victor Hiscock could barely speak while introducing Roberts. He held back tears, and spoke quickly before handing the microphone back to Lundrigan. It was a hard speech for Hiscock to give.
At 65 years old, Roberts has many memories from his years with the department, including a time before breathing apparatuses were available.
In 1989, the department earned the Arthur Johnson Memorial citation for most aggressive overall fire protection and training — among other attributes — in Newfoundland by the Fire Chiefs Association. Roberts was very proud, since the department was still very young.
He also recalled a night in the late 70s, when it was freezing cold and a fire broke out at a neighbour’s home.
“We got soaked that night,” he said.
When asked why he stayed with the fire department for so long, he replied with no hesitation.
“I liked the fire department and I liked helping other people.”
Guests thanks department
There were also some speeches given to thank the firefighters.
Mayor Wayne Smith explained the men and women involved in firefighting, past and present, “deserve our gratitude.”
MHA Sam Slade, who represents a portion of the town, is a 20-year veteran firefighter of the Carbonear department. He addressed the crowd next, telling the crew they are much needed in the community, and regionally.
“Your commitment and dedication does not go unnoticed,” he said.
MP Scott Andrews joked that he was born in 1974, the year the fire department was founded.
“Those who experience a fire are calling for the help of the f ire department on the worst day of their life” he explained. “It’s a calling. It’s a passion to get involved with a fire department.”
MHA Glenn Littlejohn, who rep- resents a portion of Spaniard’s Bay as well, said firefighters have taken on much more responsibility than in the past.
“The firefighter of today is not just a firefighter,” he said. “They’re a first responder, and they do so without any hesitation.”
Chief Victor Hiscocks begins to introduce former firefighter Rick Roberts, but gets a little choked up.
The anniversary cake was cut by the two longest serving active members, Martin Seymour (left) and Granville Newman.