By Steve Christie
It takes a great deal of courage to willingly place yourself in harm’s way, but that’s what first responders like firefighters do when they are called on to respond to emergencies. We rely on these brave men and women to dash into a dangerous situation — when everyone else is running out — in order to save lives and protect property.
In Lacombe, we are fortunate to have a dedicated team of volunteer firefighters who are committed to protecting us by answering the call of duty, day and night.
The Lacombe Fire Department (LFD) has a long history of quiet heroism that began in 1907, and it has grown with the community over the years to meet the increased demand in both the number of calls and the types of services needed.
Today the LFD is staffed by a full-time fire chief and approximately 35 to 40 committed and capable volunteer members, who stand ready to serve Lacombe and area residents in their time of greatest need.
I can personally attest to this, as I have served as a member of the LFD from 1998 to 2010. My 12 years as a volunteer firefighter taught me a great many useful skills. It also provided me with a strong sense of pride in my community, and a deep personal satisfaction in knowing I helped to make a positive difference in the lives of those who live and work in Lacombe.
Lacombe’s growing population has placed increasing demands on our emergency services that extend beyond fire-related emergencies. In order to respond to this increased demand, the LFD has incorporated additional training for its volunteers to meet the need for more varied types of services.
Our firefighters are trained to respond to many different types of emergencies, including fire suppression in both municipal and rural environments, rescue extraction from motor vehicle collisions and farm equipment accidents, hazardous material response and surface and shore rescues from still or slow-flowing water bodies.
There are some emergencies that merit the help of substitute providers, such as confined space entry. In these instances, the department enlists the assistance of responders from Nova Chemicals and/or Red Deer County.
Communication to firefighters in an emergency is accomplished by page-over radios that are carried by all members. We now have a rotational on-call crew that is ready to respond to certain types of alarms and small fires, as well as three additional crews that are available as needed.
In the event of an emergency, firefighters are expected to respond with the first truck leaving the fire hall within 10 minutes. If you see vehicles with flashing green lights on their dashboards, be advised that they are volunteer firefighters on their way to the fire hall to respond to a call. Please pull over to the side and give them the right of way — they may be on their way to help someone you know.
The fire department also has an outreach team that regularly visits local schools to educate students about fire safety through fire prevention activities, a move that I wholeheartedly support. I believe prevention education is the best way to mitigate the risks associated with fires and many other emergencies.
The LFD service area encompasses the City of Lacombe, and extends south and north into Lacombe County, east of Gull Lake and west toward Clive. The Lacombe County Mutual Aid Organization (LCMAO) has an understanding of support with Ponoka and Blackfalds. We all work together to ensure the safety of residents throughout our region.
LFD members hold themselves to the highest standards of performance. Recruits undergo three to four months of basic training, followed by six months of probation and an opportunity to work with a partner on responses. Ongoing training throughout their career is offered to ensure volunteers continue to hone the necessary skills to perform their job as safely as possible.
I am pleased to report that post-response support is available to members through the Employee Family Wellness Program provided by the City of Lacombe. As well, a member of the clergy is on hand to offer counsel to members following emergency response situations.
In closing, I want to mention that the fire department is always looking for volunteers to bolster its ranks, for both frontline and support services. As mayor, and a former firefighter, I encourage anyone who wants to give back to the community to join the LFD family.
If you are interested in becoming a member, please visit www.lacombe.ca for more information and to complete an application, or call the LFD at (403) 782-1230.
Steve Christie is the mayor of Lacombe.