Fill­ing big boots

An­drew Cran­ton takes over as new chief at An­napo­lis Royal fire hall

Annapolis Valley Register - - NEWS - BY LAWRENCE POW­ELL THE SPEC­TA­TOR AN­NAPO­LIS ROYAL

An­drew Cran­ton has been An­napo­lis Royal fire chief for just 10 days, but al­ready he knows his big­gest re­spon­si­bil­ity is mak­ing sure his fire­fight­ers get home safe af­ter ev­ery call.

It’s a daunt­ing task and a big re­spon­si­bil­ity.

Chief Cran­ton looks back at his pre­de­ces­sors like Mal­colm Fran­cis and Rick Smith with a new­found ad­mi­ra­tion. Those are big boots to fill. Cran­ton is now the guy peo­ple look to for di­rec­tion, and mak­ing mis­takes isn’t an op­tion.

“It would to­tally dev­as­tate me if any­thing hap­pened,” he said. “I take this job dead se­ri­ously.”

It’s a fam­ily of first re­spon­ders who rely on each other through thick and thin.

“When I took that first leap to the white hat I grew up ba­si­cally overnight. I had to,” said Cran­ton of his move to third deputy al­most five years ago. “When you’re look­ing down and the rest of the crew is look­ing up at you for di­rec­tion – things be­came re­ally real.”

The new chief takes over from Fran­cis who steered the de­part­ment through some tough years of calls rang­ing from first re­sponse to fa­tal ac­ci­dents, a sum­mer of un­prece­dented for­est fires, and the sec­ond dev­as­tat­ing fire at leg­endary Mil­ford House.

Cran­ton was there for it all and in his decades with the vol­un­teer de­part­ment has dis­cov­ered three main truths about fire­fight­ing – Wednes­day night train­ing, the need for the proper equip­ment, and the need for com­mu­nity sup­port.

“In the al­most 25 years I’ve been here we train ev­ery Wednes­day night,” he said, adding while it may seem repet­i­tive, you learn some­thing new ev­ery time.

“Through our train­ing here ev­ery Wednes­day night, and our guys come out faith­fully, we are pre­pared to the best of our abil­i­ties,” he said. “We’re go­ing in armed with ev­ery­thing we can. This new tool that we pur­chased (Jaws of Life), this is just an­other piece in the arse­nal for us that we can save lives faster.”

While he’s be­ing in­ter­viewed, fire­fighter Matt Smith and Cran­ton’s son, fire­fighter Alex Cran­ton, are get­ting ready for the Wednes­day night Chase the Ace. The fire hall is packed with peo­ple buy­ing tick­ets and wait­ing for the draw. The Ace is worth $85,000 and hun­dreds of peo­ple are tun­ing in on Face­book Live to see if their ticket is drawn. While the hefty pay­out is in­cen­tive for pub­lic sup­port, Cran­ton said the pub­lic is re­ally in­vested in their fire­fight­ers.

“The com­mu­nity is so driven with this fire hall,” he said. “They know where their money is go­ing. Their money is go­ing to help the com­mu­nity via the fire de­part­ment. Ev­ery­thing that we raise is be­ing used to pur­chase equip­ment to bet­ter our­selves.”

Ap­pli­ca­tion

An­drew Cran­ton started out with the ARVFD in 1994. “I worked at CFB Corn­wal- lis and I met a gen­tle­man by the name of Ray­mond Wiles,” Cran­ton re­called. “He told me one day …‘you’d make a good fire­man. You re­ally need to join.’ He said ‘I’m go­ing to get you an ap­pli­ca­tion.’ I was re­ally hes­i­tant about fill­ing out the ap­pli­ca­tion be­cause I was young and ‘was this the thing for me?’ I’d never been around any­thing like this be­fore. The trucks, of course, al­ways in­trigued me as a lit­tle boy, but to be ac­tu­ally part and par­cel here? I didn’t think I’d ever do it.”

But he signed the ap­pli­ca­tion and Wiles en­dorsed it and wrote his name at the bot­tom.

“I came to the meet­ing and got voted in unan­i­mously and it took off from there,” he said. He took his Level 1 and has been learn­ing ever since.

“I learned ev­ery as­pect of what there was to learn about this hall from be­ing a fire­man to learn­ing how to drive the trucks,” he said.

Then he learned pumpers, and found him­self driv­ing to a se­ri­ous blaze.

“…it was the Mil­ford House that was on fire for the first time,” he said. “I showed up to the hall and all I heard was ‘Cran, you’re driv­ing.’ I jumped be­hind the wheel. The adren­a­line was pump­ing. This was my first big fire. I stayed with it all night long un­til about nine o’clock the next morn­ing be­fore I went home and went to bed.”

Later he moved to the Zo­diac with the de­part­ment’s wa­ter res­cue unit, and on to ev­ery­thing else to be learned.

Ver­sa­tile

“I wanted to make my­self com- pletely ver­sa­tile on ev­ery piece of this hall,” he said. “When I joined up I never thought I’d make it as far as I did, do what I wanted to do, but I ended up tak­ing a lieu­tenant’s po­si­tion for a lit­tle while.”

That wasn’t re­ally for him and he sus­pects he wasn’t ready for it.

“I still wanted to be a fire­man. I still wanted to drive the trucks. I still wanted to be in the mix of it all,” he said.

He stepped back a bit and took a cap­tain’s po­si­tion, and af­ter a num­ber of years was a third deputy chief and stayed with that for al­most five years.

“I at­tended more meet­ings, and I at­tended more things with the chief, and I started help­ing the chief out with his busi­ness, mak­ing sure that what­ever he asked of me – paper work, phon­ing some­body, go­ing and look­ing at some­thing – it was some­thing that I did,” he said.

Is he ready to be chief? Cran­ton hopes he is. If there’s an­other job in vol­un­teerism with more re­spon­si­bil­ity, it would be dif­fi­cult to find.

He’s at­tended nu­mer­ous fires, ac­ci­dents, and med­i­cal re­sponse scenes too many to re­mem­ber. He’s learned that fact is stranger than fic­tion, and don’t take any­thing for granted – like Mil­ford House on fire again.

“I was back for the sec­ond round. I was ac­tu­ally the first truck out again,” he said. “All I can re­ally re­mem­ber is ‘this can’t hap­pen again.’ But it did. That 19 kilo­me­tres felt like nine­teen hun­dred that night. It was just un­be­liev­able. You never thought you’d go back again.”

This map shows the area the An­napo­lis Royal Vol­un­teer Fire De­part­ment is re­spon­si­ble for. There are 38 fire­fight­ers who go to calls from the west side of Youngs Moun­tain Road to east side of Moose River Road, just past Birch Lake on High­way 8.

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