‘What makes it worthwhile’
Female firefighter dedicated to helping, protecting the community
If you grew up in a small town in Atlantic Canada, chances are you remember the wail of the local volunteer fire department whistle and, moments later, people running and driving through town to get to the fire station for the call.
There are still many communities that rely on these volunteers, and the Waterville district in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley is one of them.
Sarah Brown from Grafton, N.S. is a tire builder at Michelin Canada by trade, but she’s also a volunteer firefighter. She joined the department 10 years ago, in December 2009, because she’s always had an interest in the fire services, but more importantly, she wanted to help others in her community.
To Brown, being a volunteer firefighter means always learning and challenging herself. Since starting the role, she’s added a certificate in emergency scene traffic control, learned how to use many types of speciality equipment and became a member of the Michelin Emergency Response Team.
“With what I've learned and continue to learn, I'm able to help those around me a little bit more,” she explains. “I’m constantly learning every day.”
Responding to a call is always an unknown and sometimes the outcome is not positive – something Brown says can be one of the biggest hurdles to doing the work.
“I think the biggest challenge for firefighters, volunteer or paid, is the mental health aspect after fire calls,” she says. “Luckily, we have a good support system.”
That support system extends beyond the fire department. Some of her favourite moments have been when different agencies and departments work together as one team on fire scenes.
“The support between multiple departments and agencies is phenomenal,” she says.
Beyond fighting fires, she attends training sessions and meetings and helps host fundraisers, dances and celebrations, like birthday and anniversary parties, throughout the year – all volunteer work.
When asked about a moment in her firefighting career that stands out to her, Brown reflects on one experience she feels shows the spirit of support in the first response community.
“I remember one call that was the first Tuesday of February, about seven or eight years ago, that happened in Berwick's fire district. I was on my way to Waterville for a meeting when I approached an incident just before Berwick Volunteer Fire Department got there. Of course, I grabbed my fire gear to put on, made sure 911 was called, checked that everyone was safe and helped Berwick Fire out with what was needed,” she recalls.
“The appreciation they had, just as other departments would, when a local agency member helped out made for a great feeling.”
Brown says while the wider community has been respectful for the most part with the Move Over law when they approach an emergency vehicle, her biggest wish is that people show the same respect to those involved in the incident and refrain from posting images and information on social media until officials are ready to release the details.
Being a firefighter is hard work, but Brown says the rewards of knowing that she makes a difference keeps her happily volunteering her time.
“My motivation for being a volunteer firefighter, just as the other things I volunteer with, is for those in the community and surrounding areas,” says Brown. “Those in the community are so appreciative of those in their local fire departments and that's what makes it worthwhile.”
To learn more about becoming a volunteer firefighter, contact your local department for more information on requirements and training.
For Sarah Brown, a volunteer firefighter in Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Valley, helping her community is more than worth the many hours of training and fundraising that she puts in.