They’re the people you don’t know to truly appreciate until you’re in need of their help. The Columbia Valley’s volunteer firefighters — all roughly 200-plus of them — live their lives on call. At any moment, day or night, their radio or pager can go off, letting them know they need to drop whatever it is that they’re doing and get to the fire hall, get geared up and get ready to help. Whether it’s dinner with the family, walking the dog, relaxing with friends or sleeping at 3 a.m., it’s what they agreed to give up when they volunteered to join one of the valley’s seven firefighting crews and be responsible for saving lives.
Then there’s the physical stamina required for the job, and the weekly practices working on various scenarios such as motor vehicle collisions, first aid, structure fires, grass fires, and more.
And they do an excellent job. As anyone who lives in the valley can attest to, any structural fires over the last several years have been dealt with quickly and efficiently with zero fatalities. Being a remote tourism destination accessible only by mountain highways, the valley sees its fair share of motor vehicle accidents and the local fire departments have broadened their role with respect to emergency response, stepping into the first-responders role and becoming experts in road rescue.
Last winter, a friend of mine broke her leg in several places on an icy trail that wasn’t accessible by vehicle so first responders had to trek through knee-deep snow for 20 minutes to get to her. Two BC Ambulance attendants arrived first, but didn’t have the proper equipment or manpower to transport her back to the ambulance without aggravating her leg and causing her to scream in pain. The apparition of six firefighters with a large stretcher and laughing gas was too good to be true. Most were young fathers, called away from their families early on a Sunday morning and, thanks to their help, my friend comfortably made it to the hospital.
In case these men and women don’t hear it enough, thank you for the job you do — you’re appreciated more than you know.