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FIRE FIGHTERS PROTECT LONDONERS

One of the perks of writing a column was to have the privilege to interview some very nice Londoners who make a difference.

Recently I met with Londonís Deputy Fire Chief, David Kitterman, at Number One Fire Hall on Horton Street. There are 327 male fire fighters and four females staffing twelve stations strategically situated to attend to the needs of Londoners.

The requirements to wear the uniform are quite rigorous. Candidates graduate from the National Fire Protection programs in Alberta, Texas or Lampton College in Sarnia. York University assesses oneís cardio, brain power potential.

CPR, Red Cross, D.Z. driving licence along with background checks that are squeaky clean. Wanted: team players who are willing to risk their health and safety for their fellow citizens.

Fire fighters are a family that can depend/rely on each other to help them keep out of harms way. The work can be extremely dangerous/dirty and labour intensive: noxious chemicals, smoke, fire, are part and parcel of a days work.

You eat, sleep and work alongside 15 other fire personal in the fire station. Two 24 hour shifts a week with five days off in between shifts. Kitchen, cots, blankets microwaves, T.V, VCR provide a little comfort.

When the alarm bells ring, lights flash the firefighters have one minute to don their gear and board their vehicles. There is a rush of adrenalin as the duty chief grabs the print out from the printer to see which of the 138 zones they have drawn.

Time is of the essence - four minutes or less is the critical period of time allotted to be on site - ready and able to help. Last year the fire department answered 6,500 calls for assistance.

Fires are unpredictable. You learn to respect, not fear the heat/smoke and claustrophobia of not being able to see more then six inches from your face.

It isnít Hollywood : there are always two "guys" (males/females) working together with their oxygen masks affixed. Ongoing daily training keeps the crews knowledgeable and ready to take on the life threatening risks awaiting the crews.

There are three special teams: hazardous material, technical rescue, water and ice rescue units. Eleven Fire Prevention Officers see to it that industrial, public buildings are maintaining the fire code regulations.

The best part of my visit was to be invited to take a training run on the mammoth 34 ton aerial ladder truck.
Captain Jeff Adams a 28 year veteran welcomed me aboard. He spoke of the excitement with every day having different challenges, a sense of camaraderie, achievement and celebration.

Scott McKenzie a 10 year member of the fire department enjoys the action and diversity of making a difference. Fire fighting is a collaborative endeavour involving Londonís uniformed police officers, Thames Valley Ambulance attendants, Union Gas, London Hydro and City Works crews.

As we drove through the downtown streets in the flaming red fire truck it was amazing to see the citizens of London look up and smile. The nursery children out for a walk with their teachers all waved.

For a couple of hours I fulfilled my childhood dream to be one of those fire fighter "guys".

We Londonerís owe the firefighters who risk their lives on our behalf a sincere thank-you.

Len Lesser

Len Lesser posts a report every week

You can email Len at lenlesser@hotmail.com