Then and Now
Fire department as vital now as in the past
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.
The Main Fire Department/Station in downtown Port aux Basques is the primary location from where local firefighters work when duty calls.
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.
Port aux Basques Fire Chief Jerry Musseau at last year’s annual Firefighters Ball.