‘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.

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