A tip of the hat to those who are al­ways there

Sherbrooke Record - - BROME COUNTY -

Clean air, fresh wa­ter, pris­tine lakes, moun­tain vis­tas. Add safe and car­ing com­mu­ni­ties to the list of ben­e­fits that come from liv­ing in the Eastern Town­ships, thanks to the ded­i­ca­tion of hun­dreds of fire­fight­ers and First Re­spon­ders. Since the first emer­gency bell rang from a church bel­fry or in a town square, men and women of good will have been putting their own lives at risk to keep our homes and fam­i­lies safe. It’s as much a Town­ships’ tra­di­tion as maple sug­ar­ing in spring.

The first loosely-or­ga­nized fire depart­ments co­in­cided with the set­tling of each of our small towns, as a first re­sponse to a dis­as­ter. The good-neigh­bour pol­icy, which con­tin­ues to ex­ist to­day, was es­tab­lished early, with able-bod­ied men in neigh­bour­ing com­mu­ni­ties rush­ing to the scene with all avail­able man­power and equip­ment wher­ever dis­as­ter struck. Vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers in the early days were equipped with lit­tle more than two-gal­lon buck­ets and wooden lad­ders, decked out in leather hel­mets and the stur­di­est jacket they owned. It wasn’t un­til the early 1900s that the rub­ber duck coats and rub­ber boots be­came the garb du jour, of­fer­ing a mod­icum of pro­tec­tion to the vol­un­teers bat­tling rag­ing fires in pri­mar­ily wooden homes, barns and busi­nesses.

Towns with lakes were a god­send pro­vid­ing easy ac­cess to wa­ter that could be hauled to a scene by horse and cart. Sci­en­tific ad­vances were a dou­ble-edged sword, on the one hand bring­ing steam-pow­ered en­gines, fire hy­drants and stur­dier equip­ment, but on the other, a host of new ma­te­ri­als used in con­struc­tion that pro­duced dan­ger­ous emis­sions, ex­pos­ing fire­fight­ers to nox­ious fumes. Masks were in­tro­duced to mit­i­gate the risk, but it’s safe to say fire­fight­ers in 2018 are ex­posed to a mul­ti­tude of risks when they re­spond to a fire call.

To­day’s fire­fight­ers and First Re­spon­ders are well­trained, highly skilled and phys­i­cally fit with state-ofthe-art fire-fight­ing equip­ment. But they have chal­lenges never dreamed of a cen­tury ago: faster cars, higher build­ings, jobs that take them away from their homes and a life­style that leaves lit­tle time for much. Still, when the call comes in, the safety of oth­ers be­comes their first pri­or­ity. This char­ac­ter­is­tic of putting oth­ers be­fore self ex­tends be­yond safety to the over­all well-be­ing of peo­ple in the com­mu­nity as ev­i­denced by the many ac­tiv­i­ties or­ga­nized by fire fight­ers, from toy drives to com­mu­nity BBQ’S and spe­cial events for chil­dren.

A cur­sory look through The Record ar­chives bears wit­ness to the thou­sands of dis­as­ters that have been less­ened by the quick and sure re­sponse and per­sonal risk of fire­fight­ers and First Re­spon­ders. We owe them our thanks. And in many cases, we owe them our lives.

Sharon Mc­cully

RECORD AR­CHIVES

COUR­TESY

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