Why did you become a volunteer firefighter? That’s a question we ask quite often around the fire hall, and there are a variety of answers, depending on who you’re talking with at the time. But the theme that runs through most of the conversations around this topic is volunteers like devoting time to their community and helping their neighbours in a time of need.
And then there are a few firefighters in the station who have taken this dedication to community many steps beyond their required duties.
Each year for the past 4 years, an inspired crew of volunteer firefighters have participated in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk to fund research on curing blood cancers.
In the past 3 years, Halifax has been in the top 5 cities generating funds for this cause across Canada, showing once again the generosity of Maritimers in contributing to an important cause.
I spoke with Division Captain Gene Justason, and Station Chief Andrew Higginbotham about why this particular cause was so close to the firefighters in this community. The firefighters first got engaged with the walk after a young person in the area was diagnosed with leukemia several years ago. They founded Team Liam and have since raised over $5,000.00 for research. They’ve raised funds throughout the year by canvassing the local community, reaching out to other firefighters in the area, and even participating in a washer toss tournament. Since Team Liam began, the majority of firefighters in the area have participated in one way or another.
I was intrigued by the fact the team completes the Light the Night walk in full protective firefighting gear, known as turnouts or bunker gear. This gear includes boots, pants, coats, helmets, gloves and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), the gear that firefighters typically wear when at fire scenes. This equipment adds as much as 50 kilograms (100 or more pounds) to your body weight that they carry the length of the route. When I asked why they would choose to wear all that equipment, Justason replied, “People who are affected by these diseases don’t have an easy journey, so why should we?”
While waiting for the walk to start, the firefighters mingle with the other walkers and give the children in particular a chance to see the turnout gear, to educate them about fire safety and to let them know what to expect a firefighter to look like if they ever need to be rescued.
Team Liam’s fundraising is a partial answer to why men and are looking for people to get involved with them and participate in the Light the Night walk. Please call Andrew Higginbotham at 902-221-1269 if you are interested in joining Team Liam.
And if you’re interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter yourself, please come to Station 24, Riverside Drive, Musquodoboit Harbour, or Station 26, Oyster Pond, any Tuesday evening at 7:00 P.M. or call 902-490-5611. Volunteer firefighters assist career firefighters during the weekdays and staff our fire stations nights and weekends.
Dave Ingram is a volunteer firefighter with Station 24 in Musquodoboit Harbour
The Light the Night team from October 2016