Then and Now

Fire de­part­ment as vi­tal now as in the past

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - EDITORIAL - BY MIKE MERCER mike­mercer4@out­look.com

PORT AUX BASQUES - It has been 30 years since the first fire­fighter course was com­pleted in April 1987.

The town’s cur­rent Fire Chief, Mr. Jerry Musseau, noted that “any time a fire­fighter course was held in town back then, it would have been most likely done by Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vice. They did pro­vide some great train­ing cour­ses which would be quite ben­e­fi­cial when prob­a­bly very lit­tle train­ing was avail­able to most fire­fight­ers at the time.”

In com­par­i­son to to­day, the fire chief says the Port aux Basques de­part­ment now has a num­ber of lo­cal fire­fight­ers who are in-house in­struc­tors, in­clud­ing him.

They con­duct in-house train­ing ses­sions twice a month, ex­cept dur­ing the sum­mer.

“We usu­ally con­duct an in­house re­gional De­fen­sive Train­ing Ses­sion once a year, which is of­fered to all de­part­ments on the west coast,” he said, not­ing as well, “Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vice of­fers a Fire School once a year, usu­ally in cen­tral New­found­land; a seven-day train­ing school that of­fers dif­fer­ent cour­ses.”

Musseau says train­ing is very valu­able to fire­fight­ers, al­low­ing them to build and main­tain their skills and keep­ing cur­rent with to­day’s stan­dards.

Asked how the fire de­part­ment’s role, and ser­vices, have changed over the last 30 years, Musseau replied, “I am a mem­ber for the past 26 years and when I first joined, we wore long black jack­ets and hip waders type boots and a fire ball type glove which does not meet the cur­rent stan­dards.”

To­day, all bunker gear cloth­ing must be a NFPA stan­dard.

“And even though we are vol­un­teers, we still fall un­der Oc­cu­pa­tional Health and Safety Reg­u­la­tions.

Twenty- five years ago, he noted, fire­fight­ers went into a house full of smoke with­out pro­tec­tion.

To­day, ev­ery­one wears the proper gear, he said.

To­day the fire de­part­ment also re­sponds to high­way res­cues, and there are mu­tual aid agree­ments with other com­mu­ni­ties, en­sur­ing fire de­part­ments sup­port other fire de­part­ments.

They are in­volved with Haz­mat Re­sponse and have a Haz­mat trailer, some­thing they were not in­volved with 30 yeas ago.

“To­day fire­fight­ers op­er­ate us­ing a pager sys­tem. But at one time there was an air raid siren on top of the town hall that turned on to let fire­fight­ers know there was a fire in town.”

On a fi­nal note, the fire chief said one of the big­gest is­sues fac­ing the de­part­ment is re­cruit­ing and re­tain­ing fire­fight­ers.

“To­day, peo­ple have busy lives with their work and fam­i­lies,” said Musseau. “Fire fight­ing takes a lot of time for train­ing and you don’t know what hour you can be called out for an emer­gency.

“You have to find ded­i­cated peo­ple to step for­ward to make the com­mit­ment and have the time to do the reg­u­lar train­ing that is needed to keep cur­rent.”

Mean­while, he said, a big thank you has to go to all those who do vol­un­teer, both then and now, for their com­mit­ment in pro­vid­ing this valu­able ser­vice to their com­mu­nity.

MIKE MERCER / SPECIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

The Main Fire De­part­ment/Sta­tion in down­town Port aux Basques is the pri­mary lo­ca­tion from where lo­cal fire­fight­ers work when duty calls.

MIKE MERCER / SPECIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

Lo­cated in Grand Bay East, this build­ing serves an equally im­por­tant role in the lo­cal Fire De­part­ment’s role of as­sist­ing the peo­ple of this part of town when fire strikes.

J. R. ROY / SPECIAL TO THE GULF NEWS

Port aux Basques Fire Chief Jerry Musseau at last year’s an­nual Fire­fight­ers Ball.

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