Reflections of a Water Boy

Emergency services could use your help

Imagine the following scenario: It is a cold winter's night and a Lillooet resident is stoking his wood stove to keep his house nice and cozy. He adds more wood, closes the door and watches as flames from the split logs flare and shoot up the chimney. He adjusts the damper and settles into his easy chair to watch a rerun of Dancing With The Stars.

Our stove stoker doesn't realize it but as he jealously admires Emmitt Smith's dance moves, creosote in his chimney has caught fire and flames are soon shooting out the top. His nosy neighbour notices the flames and phones him. Stove stoker streaks outside in his sock feet and watches in horror as a shower of sparks alights on his roof, starting a small fire.

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He dashes inside and dials 911, explaining his emergency to the operator. Within minutes the Lillooet Fire Department arrives and firefighters spring into action. Minutes later they have doused the flames and saved Mr. Stoker's house.

While not every fire alarm ends as happily as this one, we take it for granted that when we need our fire department, they will be there for us.

But think about what this really means. When Mr. Stoker calls 911, the operators asks, "Police, ambulance or fire?" The call is directed to fire dispatch in Surrey who takes the initial information and pages the Lillooet Fire Department.

When the page goes out people all over town who are working or coaching hockey or having dinner with their families drop what they are doing and race to the fire hall. They suit up and roar out of the hall, lights flashing and sirens wailing, generally within seven minutes of the call being received.

Once on the scene they respond according to the hundreds of hours of training they have received, employing equipment that has been checked and double-checked for safety and operating efficiency.

We expect they will be there when we need them, but do we really appreciate what they do for us? Do we appreciate the dedication, the many hours of practice, the personal sacrifices these people must sometimes make, the risks they must sometimes take?

How many of us think about the fact that our fire department is really just a handful of community-minded people, willing to give up countless hours and in extreme cases even risk their lives to keep us safe?

The truth is the fire department is under-manned. They should have a complement of 25 to 30 members. They currently have just 14 active members. That "fire department" we take for granted is really just 14 people who give their time and commitment to the community in return for a tiny recompense and the satisfaction of a job well done.

An ideal recruit for the fire department might be male or female, between 20 and 44 years old, physically fit and willing to undertake the training required to fight fire.

If you fit that description, the fire department needs your help. The community needs your help.

Similarly, the Lillooet Rescue service has just eight active members right now. I am one of them. We are all unpaid volunteers. Six of us are over 40 years of age and at least a couple of us are over 50.

Just like the fire department, we could sure use some help - the younger the better. I ain't no spring chicken. My days of dropping hundreds of feet over the bank to reach accident victims are numbered.

Lillooet can be proud of all the people, police and ambulance crews, firefighters and rescue volunteers - who unfailingly come to your aid in emergency situations. But both the fire department and rescue service are critically short-staffed and need more members to continue to respond without fail.

The 2011 StatsCan census says there are 580 people aged 20 to 44 living in Lillooet. I appeal to more of you to find the time and the community spirit to come out and join these essential services, services which can save lives and keep our community safe.

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