Marmora and Lake - Fire Chief Tony Brownson is making a difference for fellow firefighters in need.
The Chief recently received a plaque recognizing his efforts to provide firefighting equipment to rural First Nations communities in Saskatchewan, Canada, who are in the early stages of becoming fully functioning volunteer fire departments.
The initiative was organized by Brownson in conjunction with First Nations Emergency Management (FNEM), whose mandate is to provide training, consulting and equipment to newly formed volunteer departments and more specifically to First Nation fire departments.
Pierce Pellerin, Emergency and Protective Services Officer for FNEM said more than 70 communities in Northern Saskatchewan didn’t have any fire services when the organization took shape a year ago.
“There’s definitely struggles here, there’s a lack of funding and essential fire fighting equipment,” he said, adding new equipment and trucks are out of reach for many communities in Northern Saskatchewan.
Pellerin first learned of the Marmora and Lake Fire Department through Carl Eggiman at Firefighters Without Borders, a Canadian organization dedicated to helping departments source used gear. It was through this contact he found out the Marmora department had a fire truck for sale.
“They flew into Toronto and drove down to see the truck,” Brownson said, referring to Pellerin and his co-workers. “Then they showed me some pictures of the communities. They had nothing, they just had some axes, but they didn’t have bunker gear or a fire truck.”
Having worked as part of a volunteer municipal department for more than two decades, Brownson felt he could assist the group in its efforts to source affordable used equipment.
”I’m part of the Hastings County Mutual Aid Association and I said I could reach out to fire stations to see if they had surplus equipment,” he said, “They were really grateful.”
To date, Brownson, with the assistance from other departments, has filled an entire shipping container and a truck with more than 45 sets of bunker gear, hoses, extraction tools, self-contained breathing apparatuses and more.
Pellerin said the equipment is invaluable to the volunteer fire fighters who receive it.
“Just to see the people get their gear, they’re super excited. It really boosts morale,” he said.
In order to qualify for the equipment, volunteer departments have to take a Fire Prevention Course offered by FNEM. This ensures they understand how to use the equipment safely and effectively. Pellerin said they also visit the departments for on-site training.
So far more than ten departments have finished training and received equipment.
Having volunteer departments in Northern First Nation communities is vital, he added, stating that communities without fire services often try to combat structure fires without any protective equipment, putting their own lives at risk. With these new departments in place, that risk is mitigated.
Pellerin said he’s hopeful the First Nation Fire Departments can collaborate with Marmora and Lake by flying Brownson and some of this crew out to Saskatchewan to provide fire training. There’s also plans underway to begin filling a second shipping container with equipment.
“The work Tony has done for us has been so great,” Pellerin said. “It wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for Tony and Carl (Eggiman).”
“We hope to fly him out here to do some training, and then we’ll probably take him fishing,” Pellerin joked.
If you are interested in donating used gear to this cause, please contact Fire Chief Tony Brownson at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the department at 613-472-2748.