Ready and will­ing 175 years later

Car­bon­ear fire brigade cel­e­brates ma­jor an­niver­sary

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON TC ME­DIA

If they could time travel, Brent Sweeney reck­ons fire­fight­ers from the 1840s wouldn’t know what to make of the gear their mod­ern com­rades use to­day.

“Look­ing back at all our his­tory re­ally gives you an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of our past members,” the fire chief said at a spe­cial din­ner hon­our­ing the Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment’s 175th an­niver­sary.

It is one of the most dan­ger­ous jobs you can have. — Duane Antle

“They did things the hard way. There’s no doubt in my mind if the members of our fire de­part­ment back in 1841 were to re­turn to­day, they’d be amazed at how dif­fer­ent our de­part­ment has be­come. It has come a long way from buck­ets to a hand cart … They had no sup­port groups to turn to in dealing with tragic events. They had no warm­ing cen­tres. They had noth­ing. They had no snow plows to go ahead of them.”

The fire chief was among sev­eral speak­ers who took time July 16 to cel­e­brate the work fire­fight­ers do. Al­most 200 peo­ple were on hand for the event at Fong’s Restau­rant and Mo­tel, in­clud­ing Car­bon­ear Mayor Ge­orge Butt Jr., Avalon MP Ken MacDon­ald and lo­cal MHA Steve Crocker.

Car­bon­ear na­tive Duane Antle is the pres­i­dent of the New­found­land and Labrador As­so­ci­a­tion of Fire Ser­vices, and he spoke pas­sion­ately about the im­por­tance of fire­fight­ers.

“If any­body doesn’t un­der­stand the re­al­i­ties of what a vol­un­teer fire­fighter has to do when they go out and an­swer those calls, go talk to some of those chiefs who have lost peo­ple on fire scenes,” he said. “And not be­cause they didn’t do things prop­erly or be­cause they didn’t have gear or be­cause they didn’t do ev­ery­thing right. It’s be­cause the re­al­ity of our busi­ness is it’s very dan­ger­ous.

It is one of the most dan­ger­ous jobs you can have.”

When they do go out on call, many fire­fight­ers leave be­hind a fam­ily at home. Antle said those peo­ple are left to only won­der about the sit­u­a­tion their loved ones might face.

“If my wife came to me to­day and said, ‘Duane, I’m go­ing to take on a job. It doesn’t pay very well. Ac­tu­ally, I’m go­ing to have to spend a lot of my own money to do it. I’m go­ing to be spend­ing a lot of time away from you. I’m go­ing to be tak­ing away from fam­ily time. I’m go­ing to be go­ing out and see­ing things and do­ing things that are go­ing to be giv­ing me night­mares … By the way, I could lose my life do­ing this.’ I would say no, you’re not do­ing it, be­cause I’m not that brave. Just imag­ine how brave it is for those peo­ple who are stay­ing home … to sup­port us.”

Eddie Joyce, the min­is­ter re­spon­si­ble for fire and emer­gency ser­vices, noted that fire­fight­ers liv­ing in small com­mu­ni­ties of­ten find them­selves re­spond­ing to sit­u­a­tions in­volv­ing peo­ple they know. He’s met fire­fight­ers be­fore who’ve told him it’s the worst part of the job.

“Once they get there, the pro­fes­sion­al­ism takes over and they do their job. They al­ways said that’s the worst part of it. Not know­ing what you’re go­ing to face — es­pe­cially when there’s kids in­volved.”

A num­ber of pre­sen­ta­tions were made to the de­part­ment over the course of the night, and an orig­i­nal paint­ing was un­veiled, cre­ated es­pe­cially for the an­niver­sary by Michelle Pen­ney-Rowe and Tammy Wrice. Prints of that paint­ing are avail­able for sale at Ocean View Art Gallery, with the orig­i­nal set to hang at the lo­cal fire hall.

PHO­TOS BY AN­DREW ROBIN­SON/TC ME­DIA

Fire­fighter Ken Burke passes a flower to one of the at­ten­dees of the Car­bon­ear Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment’s 175th an­niver­sary din­ner and dance.

Jan­ice Sweeney, pres­i­dent of the Ladies Aux­il­iary, presents a cheque and plaque to her hus­band, Chief Brent Sweeney.

Members of the Car­bon­ear fire de­part­ment’s 175th an­niver­sary com­mit­tee stand next to a newly un­veiled piece of art cre­ated and do­nated to the brigade by lo­cal artists Michelle Pen­ney-Rowe and Tammy Wrice. Pic­ture, from the left, are Hon. FF Ge­orge Power, FF Richard Ros­siter, FF Jimmy Har­ris, Hon. Paul Finn, FF Steve Barrett, FF Ed Ka­vangh, FF Ken Burke, FF Scott Mullins, FF Brian Green and Chief Brent Sweeney.

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