A tip of the hat to those who are always there
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.