Fire depart­ment go­ing strong af­ter 40 years

Spa­niard’s Bay cel­e­brates a mile­stone, four decades of vol­un­teer in­volve­ment

The Compass - - OPINION - BY MELISSA JENK­INS Melissa.jenk­

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.

Show­ing ap­pre­ci­a­tion

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.

Spe­cial recog­ni­tion

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.

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