I’m always struck by the dedication shown by our volunteer firefighters.
In many of the communities I have worked in from my first days as a cub reporter in Merritt, to Squamish and now these 12 years here on the Sunshine Coast, I’m amazed at the level of commitment and willingness to serve by all these wonderful volunteers.
And two stories in this week’s edition remind me of just how fortunate we are to have so many men and women who give up so much to ensure that our communities are protected — and help to give back to others.
A strong contingent of firefighters from Port Mellon, Gibsons, Roberts Creek and Sechelt fundraised thousands of dollars and then put on their full turnout gear to climb the stairs of the Sheraton Wall Centre Hotel on March 1 for the annual B.C. Lung Association Stairclimb for Clean Air. I can only imagine what the experience was like climbing those stairs with 40-odd pounds of gear strapped to their backs. But they all did it — many setting some impressive times — and came back down with smiles on their faces knowing they had done the job and helped out a lot of people in the process through their fundraising efforts. And that’s what it’s all about — helping people and giving back.
Although I have never climbed stairs with turnout gear on, I had the opportunity some 18 years ago when I was in Merritt to put on the gear and go through some firefighting training. Little did I know at the time how much goes into being a firefighter. It sure looks a lot different on TV and in the movies, I thought at the time, but I’m game and up for the challenge.
Boy, was I in for a rude awakening! To say it was easy to crawl through that smoke-filled practice firehouse with gear on would be a bold-faced lie. It was one of the hardest things I have ever challenged myself to do. It was then, after I got out of the house, drenched in sweat and struggling to take the gear off, that I began to understand what firefighters face and the service that they provide.
And speaking of service, at the March 3 Gibsons council meeting, four of Gibsons’ finest were all recognized for their years of service.
Greig Soohen, one of the volunteer firefighters who received the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal, summed it up best when he said the desire to serve his community was what got him into the fire service 20 years ago.
Fire chief Bob Stevens, who received a 35-year bar, told one of our reporters this week that every kid wants to be a firefighter growing up. He’s right, many do. But it takes so much more than to dream; it takes a willingness to train, a willingness to leave your job and your family at any hour of any day to do this job. It takes a dedicated volunteer.
This community is very fortunate to have so many talented men and women in the fire service. Thanks to all of you for all you do.