Today, MLA Ronna-Rae Leonard spoke about Courtenay-Comox Firefighters in the Legislature. You can watch the video here or read the transcript below.
A rash of fires in Courtenay recently destroyed or severely damaged a number of businesses, homes and a hostel. And a man was discovered in the Courtenay River last month, reminding us of another tragedy at the same place a few years ago, where a mother drowned but whose baby was rescued by Courtenay’s firefighters.
Courtenay, Comox and Oyster River fire departments operate with large crews of volunteer firefighters, displaying an incredible community pride and saving communities three times the cost of a paid fire department.
Most fire departments in B.C. are volunteer-based. In some cases, they’re paid on call or when they are called out. In one recent fire, 22 Courtenay volunteers arrived on scene in just seven minutes. They received professional training, and today more firefighters are staying, as many jobs that keep them in the Comox Valley allow them to continue to be firefighters there. Lane MacDonald sets a high bar, though, with 55 years of volunteer service. Recruitment is a little harder in bedroom communities because of the need for timely responses.
A regional FireFit competition hosted by Courtenay on May 11 will see volunteers from all walks of life, including 20 percent women on Courtenay’s team, vying to be the fastest, strongest and best.
Full-service training makes for safe volunteers who are effective in fighting outdoor fires as well as structural fires. Comox is training up larger numbers to fight wildfires, as the past unusually dry months reveal that even the Wet Coast is at greater risk.
There is another safety factor. Courtenay’s fire chief recognizes firsthand the value of the presumption of PTSD for first responders. Today both he, with his support dog Gunny, and his crew are more open in dealing with their own trauma.
Next time you see a firefighter, please say thank you.