Lac La Hache Volunteer Fire Department (photo submitted)

Firefighters put lives on the line, deserve respect

It’s that time of year again - Fire Prevention Week.

It’s that time of year again – Fire Prevention Week.

If you take a look back through the Free Press archives you will find dozens of papers over the years filled with pictures of past teams, words of wisdom from retired or departed chiefs and inspiring personal stories. It reveals a culture and tradition of community service few other organizations can match.

This year our local firefighters are out in force offering advice and education about kitchen safety, as unattended cooking is the leading cause of house fires. In a normal year, they would hold various events, like Fire Chief for a Day, or hall visits, to spread the word about the need to check smoke alarms, clear brush around the house, and other fire safety tips.

But it’s not a normal year. And like everything, COVID-19 has made our firefighters’ jobs even harder. They are already facing increasing pressures and challenges in terms of training and standards and administrative duties, yet they constantly step up to the plate. In the South Cariboo, we have great crews, both paid and volunteers – ready for any emergency, whether it be a kitchen fire, highway crash or medical call.

While most of us hear the sirens and wonder what’s going on, they are racing to the fire hall, slipping on their apparatus and putting themselves out there. They’re often the first on the scene of any emergency. It may be stereotypical, but they’re also the ones people call when their cats are stuck in a tree.

In 2019, Cariboo Regional District volunteers responded to 151 fire calls, 97 motor vehicle incidents, and 344 medical emergencies. It’s hard work, especially as additional challenges such as distance, terrain, and a dry climate multiply the challenges.

Roger Hollander, Chief of the 100 Mile Fire and Rescue urges residents to call early in the event of a fire, noting the call can always be cancelled if they’re not needed after all. “We don’t mind, that’s what we signed up for,” he said.

In 2017, it was the firefighters locally, provincially and from across Canada and the world, who kept 100 Mile House and the entire Cariboo safe as wildfires ravaged the land. Some of those same firefighters now are battling fires in California showing a truly special sense of civic duty to both their community and the world we all live in.

This week is for the firefighters. We should all take a moment to show our appreciation for the men and women who give their time and energy and put their lives on the line to make sure we’re safe in an emergency.

After all, they earn our respect every time they run towards the fire, rather then away from it.

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