By K.A. Pendergast
Silently behind a door it waits. One breath of oxygen and it explodes in a deadly rage. In that instant, it creates a hero or covers a secret.
That monologue may be recognized by some as the one from some of the commercials about the movie a while back called Backdraft. I got the idea to begin this part of the story from Shawn Richardson who regularly wrote a column with this name in the past.
Backdraft, although part of real fires, is also a movie that has some true aspects, but also has many things that are just not feasible in the real world.
Such as the heroes having absolutely no life-saving breathing equipment on. Many of these guys would be not around anymore if they had tried to put out a real live fire like that.
Movies have to show off the faces of the actors properly I suppose. Luckily for us, our local heroes do things the proper way. The equipment helps save the lives of the heroes and the people they are saving as well. How could our local volunteers possibly get into buildings where citizens are trapped without it?
Many firefighters in days past lost their lives for lack of a better breathing apparatus or other types of training in how to use the other equipment necessary that our own heroes use all year long nowadays in their quest to keep us safe.
Naturally, there are so many risks in their jobs, even with the proper training there can be things happen that are beyond their abilities. That goes usually without saying.
A mention, though, must go out to those lost because once in a great while the call does not come fast enough to get there in time.
The time that our volunteers take to be ready is so short and is down to such a low speedy reaction that it seems impossible, but a moment is all it takes. Those times are hard for everyone. There are other moments that show how much the fire fighting community is like a family and we all know just how much it hurts to lose family.
That is what happened one day, years back. One of our own volunteers was lost. It does happen no matter how hard and intense the training is. There are aspects of that terrible beast called fire that cannot be controlled.
His name was Chad Shepansky, he was 23 years old, he was a community-minded fire fighting volunteer, and there is a park dedicated to his memory across from the fire hall.
A reminder to all who it is, our own friends and neighbors who set out to save our lives when the sirens wail.
On another note, to show us just how important volunteering is, there are each year, several of our children in the local elementary school who want to be just like our local heroes.
They want to help others selflessly and make the world a better place. The local volunteers commit time and energy freely to teach these youngsters about safety.
This effort will hopefully continue to build a generation that is more aware of all the things that we can do personally to make ourselves safer and more aware of the dangers that can be caused by just a single spark. Maybe it will ease their burden at least a little. Over the last 50 years there have been countless tours of our hall and trucks, and hours devoted to this task.
Many a child has been the lucky recipient of the award of Fire Chief for a day. In 1989 five-year-old James Foucault, a kindergarten student from Raft River Elementary School, confided to his mom that he really wanted to have his name drawn for the honour. The next day his wish was granted. James is just one of many over the years, who got to live the dream during Fire Prevention Week.
Those friendly and fun-loving local heroes made that little one’s dream come true. The highlight of the year for many of them was a visit to the fire hall or a talk by one of the dedicated volunteers.
Just another word or two about some of the equipment updates.
The heavy coats and gear all set and ready for the fastest donning, the boots and pants open and ready for tucking those feet in, the helmets lining the shelves and let’s not forget Rescue Randy.
He is the 190 lb rescue practice dummy that is used to train the firefighters endlessly to make sure they can carry the load of a possibly unconscious citizen, or even another firefighter, who cannot make it alone. Just imagine carrying that extra weight up or down a set of stairs or a ladder.
The numerous never-ending rituals with the newest useful tools and equipment that make up the training that must be learned. These heroes perform many tasks every week during practice and that makes them ready when the call comes.
Through the years there have been newer trucks and equipment that must be updated. Over and over again. The heavier coats and reflective safety gear are a testament to the determination of our department to keep our fighters and locals safe alike. The breathing apparatus that is used to stop so many from having smoke inhalation problems.
That invention alone has saved countless lives the world over. There have been many conventions and competitions between our local group and others sharing the latest techniques and newer tools to help them do their jobs. The mentioning of each new update would make this story very long indeed. The newest technology alone has been staggering.
The history could easily fill volume after volume. The one thing that hasn’t changed since the beginning is the dedication of our volunteers. The things this group does for the community, besides their every day selfless acts, are numerous, from sponsoring hockey teams to donating to grad classes, they just keep giving.
Our volunteers and their families, as well as our citizens, keep the fire hall and all those who serve it going. It’s a pleasure for them to host an open house to commemorate the monumental 50-year mark for this group. The Clearwater Volunteer Fire Department and families and the local community that donates time, energy, money, and effort could never have made it without all of these citizens contributing.
May 26 is the date and the time is 12-3 p.m. Place: the Fire Hall and Chad Park.
You can come check out the info and history. Put on turnout gear. There are truck rides between 12:30-1 p.m., other activities such as kids fire fit, and slip and slide.
There is even a free lunch. Bring the whole family and show our heroes our support.