According to the calendar we should be well into the “Dog Days of Summer”, the hottest and most sultry time of the year, when things sort of slow down and the pace of life relaxes in preparation for the fall. Well that isn’t quite the case this year as “hottest and sultry” are not words that are being thrown around with reckless abandon this summer. The most accurate description of the summer that I have heard so far is that it has been a lovely fall. For the Russell Fire Department however the “Dog Days” have been going on for a few years with regards to fire related call volume. In most work places when you are not busy it is a time for concern, for a fire department this isn’t the case. Our lack of fire related calls means; less financial loss, less threat to life and a safer community. The low call volume that we are experiencing in Russell is not the case in all communities, many departments are experiencing similar call volumes as compared with years past. So what is going on in Russell? This is where some speculation has to come into play, it is easy to track trends when you are dealing with documented occurrences, however establishing reasons for things not taking place can be a little more difficult. One factor that we feel has contributed to the low call volume is that the Russell Fire Department has had a very active and public program addressing fire safety for many years, more so than in other communities. Our present Chief Bruce Armstrong was inspired by the vision of former Ontario Fire Marshall Bernie Moyle with regards to fire education. Bernie was once quoted as saying “we should train teachers to fight fires not firefighters to teach” and this was the basis of his philosophy towards public education. He felt that the best way to protect a community from fire was by preventing it from happening in the first place and education was the key. Chief Armstrong bought into this way of thinking and decided to create a new division within the Russell Fire Department that was strictly dedicated to public education. This also allowed the Fire Prevention Division to fully dedicate their time to inspections and planning. This decision by Chief Armstrong was a drastic change within a rural department, something that has not been repeated in many communities. However we will let the numbers speak for themselves when looking back on this decision. The Russell Fire Department has decided to take a very open and public approach to fire safety, we are very visible within the community and plan on remaining this way. I have even heard criticism by people complaining about the amount of attention the fire department receives. The attention we seek and receive is by plan, we intend on remaining very public with hopes that by doing so, fire safety will also remain at the forefront of people’s attention. However the real difference makers for better fire safety in Russell are the residents. You have decided that taking risks with your homes and the lives of your family is not acceptable and you should be acknowledged for taking this stance. Well done Russell, let’s keep the trucks in the hall.
Published in The Villager newspaper August 12, 2009