Ramea in need of a new fire truck

Fire Chief Paul Green re­calls St. Boni­face school fire of 1993

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Front page - BY ROSALYN ROY

“There was noth­ing we could do. Noth­ing. And then of course the way the wind was – it was blow­ing right down through the cen­tre of town.”

– Ramea Fire Chief Paul Green

Be­ing on an is­land means Ramea faces an ex­tra chal­lenge when it comes to emer­gency fire­fight­ing.

Their clos­est sup­port comes from the Bur­geo Fire Depart­ment, but that ferry ride is over an hour-long trip one way, and that’s as­sum­ing the ferry is al­ready docked in Bur­geo and ready to go.

Ramea’s Paul Green has been serv­ing as Fire Chief for six years now, and was first as­sis­tant chief be­fore that. In to­tal, he has been a fire­fighter for 36 years.

When St. Boni­face All Grade School caught fire one morn­ing in 1993, he was not only a fire­fighter, but a school teacher with a class­room full of stu­dents and a fa­ther with two young chil­dren in the build­ing.

“I think we were teach­ing world ge­og­ra­phy that par­tic­u­lar day,” he re­called. “I’ll al­ways re­mem­ber one of the guys that was in the back of the class – a hard case – he put his hand on wall and he said, ‘Mr. Green that wall is hot.’”

Green re­sponded that the chim­ney was be­hind the wall and that it was just heat ris­ing from the fur­nace in the base­ment. But as it turned out the stu­dent was right to worry.

“When the fire alarm went off the place just filled up with smoke,” re­calls Green. “Every­thing was in the at­tic. The fire went up the chim­ney. That’s where it started.”

Back then St. Boni­face was old wooden school, which had been built in 1968. Im­me­di­ately across a nar­row road was the com­mu­nity cen­tre – it still sits across from the new school to­day – and when the fire broke out it was the des­ig­nated emer­gency rally point. Like the other teach­ers, Green es­corted his stu­dents to rel­a­tive safety.

Fu­eled by 40 knot north­west­erly winds, the blaze grew swiftly and en­gulfed the en­tire school be­fore threat­en­ing to spread. Green or­dered an evac­u­a­tion of the com­mu­nity cen­tre.

“There was noth­ing we could do. Noth­ing. And then of course the way the wind was – it was blow­ing right down through the cen­tre of town,” he said.

The prin­ci­pal took care of get­ting Green’s chil­dren safely home and the Ramea Fire Depart­ment be­gan hos­ing down the com­mu­nity cen­tre. The Bur­geo Fire Depart­ment also crossed over on the ferry to help.

“We were afraid we were go­ing to lose the cen­tre of town that day,” says Mayor Clyde Do­minie. He was also teach­ing in the school when the fire broke out. He left the build­ing with his stu­dents and the shirt on his back, leav­ing be­hind his coat and per­sonal ef­fects.

“The whole place burned to the ground. Every­thing.”

The fire de­part­ments saved the com­mu­nity cen­tre, but a house im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent caught fire be­cause of the over­whelm­ing heat and was also de­stroyed.

“We were at it two days be­fore we got it suf­fi­ciently out.”

It took over three years be­fore the school was fi­nally re­built. In the mean­time, the church base­ment, the com­mu­nity cen­tre, the lodge and St. Pat’s Hall were all used as makeshift class­rooms.

“Ev­ery record of ev­ery stu­dent we ever had in the school was lost,” says Do­minie, who is still truly grate­ful that no­body was hurt. “Our own fire depart­ment and Bur­geo came in and kept it con­tained.”

The lessons learned from that day are why the Rock Is­land Mu­sic Fes­ti­val in Ramea is so im­por­tant as a fundraiser for the fire depart­ment.

“This is our third year fundrais­ing (for a new truck),” says Green. “We’re talk­ing about a $250,000 fire truck.”

Un­der the provin­cial-mu­nic­i­pal split, Ramea will have to raise 20 per cent of the cost of the truck.

“We have close to $30,000,” says Green. “Usu­ally for a full week­end, if we get a real good crowd, the fire depart­ment could profit prob­a­bly about $10,000.”

The Grand In Your Hand ticket draw, which pro­vides the win­ner $1,000 cold, hard cash on the spot, is held on Sun­day and last year alone con­trib­uted $4,000 to­wards the new truck.

“Our fire truck is 25 years old. It has to be sent to Bur­geo now to get in­spected, so we don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” ad­mits Green.

He knows the truck needs new brakes at least, and he sus­pects there are other prob­lems with it as well.

“We’ve got a good depart­ment,” says Do­minie. When it comes to rais­ing money for the new truck, he fig­ures it’s just a mat­ter of time.

“We’ll do our part,” he said. “There’s no doubt about that.”

ROSALYN ROY PHO­TOS — THE GULF NEWS

Fire Chief Paul Green holds the tro­phy rec­og­niz­ing the depart­ment’s 50 years of ser­vice to Ramea.

Im­me­di­ately across from the com­mu­nity cen­tre, St. Boni­face All Grade sits in the same lo­ca­tion as its pre­de­ces­sor, which was con­sumed by fire in 1993.

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