Firefighters: First to arrive, last to leave the scene

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By Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye

When Fire Chief Ted Dillon started here in 1989 firefighters were lucky to receive 60 emergency calls in a year. Now the Ponoka Fire Department (PFD) is looking at upwards of 200.

Man-hours are up as well, these are the amount of hours the PFD has worked and in 2010, 2,563 hours were used for emergency calls. They also had 1,712 practice hours. The PFD has two staff, Dillon and fire prevention co-ordinator Donna Noble. The rest are 25 volunteer firefighters who put other people’s safety at the forefront whenever they go out.

“I gotta hand it to them, when they respond to the call, family becomes secondary,” said Dillon.

Noble said preventative planning could be what saves a life in the event of a home fire. It is easy to get complacent but her experience proves otherwise.

“My husband called me up and told me there was an alarm going off in the house and it said carbon monoxide levels were at over 75 ppm, that is when I told him to leave the house.”

Atco Gas was able to find the problem but the message is clear: It can happen to anyone at any time.

Fire Prevention Week kicks off on Oct. 9, but Dillon said it should never be something people think about for one week. He invites the community to ask the fire department questions on safety and prevention. Sunrise Village recently held a fire drill and Dillon and Noble attended. Questions of what to do if there was a fire and if the weather was -40 degrees C outside arose and Dillon was there to answer questions of concerns.

“We’ll go and talk to small groups in order to make sure they understand what it is we do and what they should do,” said Dillon.

The PFD will host an open house on Oct. 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. and will take the time to share their experience with families on fire safety. Noble enjoys giving the younger kids the tools they need to help them in a fire emergency, such as showing them how to use the back of their hands, which is more sensitive to heat, to check if a door is hot.

Dillon said it is good for the whole family to come. “Dads who like big equipment can see the toys we have to have.”

The PFD has to make tough decisions in an emergency, and the safety of their firefighters is important. Their battle is with the fire and they hate to lose. So don’t be surprised if you see a flashing green siren in a car behind you, that is a member of the volunteer fire department heading to meet danger and protect the community.