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Unique experiences as a volunteer firefighter

In Paraguay this past February Errington volunteer firefighter Bard Knorr (holding shirt) taught firefighters there how to cut cars apart. This particular fire department adopted Knorr as one of their own.  - Submitted
In Paraguay this past February Errington volunteer firefighter Bard Knorr (holding shirt) taught firefighters there how to cut cars apart. This particular fire department adopted Knorr as one of their own.
— image credit: Submitted

Volunteers from the Errington Volunteer Fire Department (EVFD) will be demonstrating their skills and the importance of emergency preparedness at an Open House event from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Errington Fire Hall Sunday, Oct. 16.

The family event will provide an opportunity for the public to meet the men and women who provide fire and emergency services in the community and also learn some fire safety skills.

Patti Whittaker, who is a member of the EVFD board of directors, said they will have several activities for children and the first 50 families who come by will receive a free fire detector battery.

There will be a representative from Genesis Fire Protection demonstrating fire extinguisher safety and an expert from the Flue Doctor will be on hand to talk about the importance of regular maintenance and cleaning to avoid a chimney fire.

Refreshments will be available and raffle tickets will be sold as a fundraiser for the EVFD.

Volunteer firefighters will also be on hand to show the equipment they use answer questions about what firefighters do.

The volunteer firefighter numbers are down significantly in Errington and Fire Chief Colin Catton says if new recruits don’t come forward, the level of fire protection in Errington could be in danger.

“There is a possibility you could lose your fire department. Numbers have to be at a certain level and if membership falls there is a chance that the department will not exist,” warned Catton.

He said it’s a situation that many local volunteer fire departments are currently facing and the community must realize the seriousness of the situation.

“To have no fire protection would be catastrophic for the area,” he admitted.

The department will have information packages to hand out at fire hall number one and volunteers will be available to answer questions from the public about how they can get involved.

Brad Knorr, who joined the EVFD, can’t say enough about the satisfaction he receives as a volunteer firefighter and admits the role has changed the career path he was going down.

Knorr retired from Bravenet back in 2003, a local internet company he co-founded. Two-and-a-half years later he felt the need to provide something meaningful to the community he lived in so he joined the EVFD.

The Errington department is part of the First Responder Program which dispatches an emergency fire vehicle and trained personnel to an accident scene.  The volunteer firefighters provide live support until B.C. Ambulance personnel arrive

Knorr recalled getting a thank you call from the mother of someone he helped during a first responder call.

“Having that family call me prompted me to take my medical training further,” he said.

Knorr decided to become a paramedic and said that seven years ago that vocation option wasn’t even in the cards.

“Not in a million years. I didn’t even have a first aid course when I joined the department,” he admitted.

Not only has Knorr furthered his medical training, he has also jumped at every training opportunity offered by the department and has climbed the ranks being promoted to lieutenant and first training officer.

Knorr said the department provides many opportunities for training and for him it has been life changing.

“You are exposed to unique experiences … from learning how to drive a fire truck, walking into a burning building or attending an MVA.”

Knorr said joining the department has also resulted in some great friendships not only locally but globally as well.

Knorr was part of group of firefighters who went to Paraguay in February 2011 to train firefighters in that country.

Knorr’s deployment was conducted by Firefighters Without Borders Canada (FWB Canada) and he said it was the trip of a lifetime that has prompted him to learn how to speak Spanish for his next adventure abroad.

He said although the firefighters they were working with spoke Spanish, they attempted to speak English and always made them feel welcome.

He said they were treated well over the 10-day trip and while the humidity was rough on him, he said he would go back in a heartbeat.

“The fire service is one big family. It doesn’t matter where you are from. If I had my druthers my vacation every year would be to visit fire departments around the world.”

Knorr became interested in FWB Canada after the EVFD made a sizable donation to the charitable group in late 2010.  Five large boxes of decommissioned firefighting gear was passed along to the group who then donated it to the El Salvador Fire Service and the Peruvian Fire Service.

As a result of the donation, Knorr decided to join Firefighters Without Borders Canada. Shortly after, a vacancy came up for the 2011 Paraguay deployment, and Knorr eagerly accepted the offer to go on his first mission.

Knorr said he has signed up for the next deployment and looks forward to sharing the knowledge he has gained while being a firefighter in the community of Errington.

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