You have all heard people say their life passed before their eyes in near death moments. Well I've experienced something similar though not nearly as dramatic. Since I have made my decision to retire from the fire service this year I've experience “flashes” Of people I have worked with over 34 years. I will literally be sitting watching TV and a name or a face comes to me out of no where. Someone I may not have seen in years. Some of people who have long passed. There seemed to be more characters back then but maybe that's just nostalgia talking. Maybe the young breed think we are all characters too. The men and women I have worked with, worked under and led over the years are some of the greatest people I have ever met. Just average human being tasked with super human expectations. As Captain Kirk said, “ to go where no man has gone before”.
I think of all the stations, some of them no longer with us either. The stations had/have character and stories all of their own.
#1 station. The big house. At one point home to 16 firefighters and dispatch. Lots of action. Lots of fun. I mean what kind of trouble can 16 immature people get into right? The station now houses an Engine company and a Ladder truck along with the provincial Hazardous materials unit. Staffing ranges from 4–8. A quarter of what it was. Dispatch was taken away a few decades ago now.
#2 station. On Golden Pond. Named for the reservoir out back. Just a stones throw away from the largest Oil refinery in Canada. Home to an engine company and a tanker. 4 or 5 personnel depending on staffing
#4 station. Now home to the only heavy duty rescue truck. A busy station even when it was just an engine company. Not only did it serve the east side it was drawn to emergencies uptown as #1 station has whittled down to just 1 truck at times.
#5 station. In the heart of old north end. The station was on main st until 1992. It ran an engine and a ladder truck with 8 men total. It was an old building with a ton of character and lots of hidden stories in the walls. Moved to Adelaide St and now home to a ladder truck and 4 personnel.
#6 station. There has been a station on this site since the late 1800s. The “ new” station I believe was built in the 1930s ( Ill double check ). One of my favorite stations. Only 4 personnel and one engine. The old building has seen a lot. It was a quiet neighborhood station at one point. Now its drawn to all areas of the city.
#7 station. The original was on Church ave west. The building still stands as a hair salon. This was my first full time station. Learning to drive out of there was a rite of passage. Traffic had to be stopped in both directions so the public got to watch you try and back the trucks into a very tight spot. The mirrors literally touched the rubber on the doors. Cold and drafty. rats. Rain spilled onto the kitchen table during most storms. What a great spot. There was even an old jail cell in the basement. The new station was built on Manchester Ave and opened in 1992. Just not the same that's for sure.
#8 station. Gone but not forgotten. The station at one point housed an Engine and a Tanker with 5 personnel. The Tanker was shut down about 20–25 years ago. As well the station was the SCBA maintenance center. The rescue boat and the off road Argo ran out of here as well. The station closed Dec 31 2020.
The calls. I remember them all. The good the bad and the ugly…and ill add the entertaining. The good are the many calls that went well. Lives saved, property saved. Business and industries that still stand and operate. They all feel good. Anytime someone calls upon you for help and you are able to provide it with a good outcome makes it worth while. One I recall is the top of Garden st. It was in January. A very very cold windy night. -20 plus windchill. Great night to play with water. A home had major fire on the lower level. It was spreading quick to the rest of the house. We escorted many residents out and searched to make sure it was empty. Crews were working on extinguishing but concern grew for the home attached to it. Not near it but attached. 3 story recently renovated. We went into that home and opened the common wall to push the fire back, trying to do as little damage as possible. Success. The home suffered very minor damage and still stands today. That was about 10 years ago and my feet are still cold.
The bad are the ones I wish to forget. We are expected to perform miracles and we strive to do so. It just doesn't work that way in the real world. I remember all loses. I know exactly where my first was. I remember many names and even faces. They are hard to put away because someone called you for help expecting you to swoop in and save the day. Despite our best efforts we get reminded that we are just human,
The ugly. Speaks for itself perhaps. If you have a weak stomach you wont survive. Some of the sights cant even be explained. Smells? Where would I even start. The wild thing is when I drive by places where these calls took place I can remember the visuals, I can smell the smells, I can hear the things people said that made me burst out laughing.
The entertaining. Well these are the “ interesting “ calls. No examples shall be given. Lets just say there are many characters in Saint John. The bizarre things you are asked to do. The odd questions you are asked. Ok one example. A male who entered a strange apartment and seemed to have a medical issue. When asked where he lived he replied…Town 9! I've avoided town 9 ever since.
Thirty four years gone like a flash. Ill hold onto the faces, the names and the memories of some amazing people. Some crazy calls. Some where we pulled up and said “ well we aint saving this one” and we shocked ourselves. I made many friends ( and maybe a few enemies ). Some never made it to retirement so I consider myself extremely fortunate. The city is in good hands despite massive cuts over the years. the men and women serving today are some of the best on the planet. Those that will join in the future will be mentored and taught just as they were and just as we were.
Be safe. Be happy. Take care of yourself and your family first and foremost. Hasta la Vista baby. I wont be back.