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May. 21, 2022 | Saturday
Local News
Letter: Our volunteer firefighters are true professionals
Letter to the editor

Dear editor:

My husband Ken Hernder has retired after 38 years as a Queenston volunteer firefighter. With our population growing and recruitment becoming more difficult, the town is considering amalgamating Queenston and St. Davids fire operations. I'd like to offer some insight into our firefighters' duties:

You may think that the little village of Queenston's firefighters wouldn't see much action, but consider that NOTL Station #4 territory encompasses the Queenston-Lewiston international bridge (vehicular accidents, bomb threats, chemical spills and, in one case, a transport carrying nuclear detonators) and from the Floral Clock beyond to Hydro One, where a power generator once caught fire.

Hazmat calls, Niagara District Airport plane crashes (some even trained extinguishing jet fuel at Niagara Falls, N.Y.'s, military base) responding to calls along Hwy. 405, the QEW over the Skyway up to Niagara Street in St. Catharines – arriving first on scene which means in command of.

Raised funds to purchase and train on Hurst power tools, making them for many years the only department in town equipped with the jaws of life, responding to all extrication calls. Residential & commercial fires/rescues, including the rural farms and greenhouses; backup for the entire town including Niagara College, the Outlet Mall and White Oaks.

Medical assist calls, arriving before paramedics, equipped with defibrillators; at times applying first aid alongside paramedics in ambulances all the way to the hospital. Once Ken was left to guard a body at the side of the road until the coroner and retrieval vehicle arrived.

Water rescues on the Niagara River, including boating accidents, even refugees crossing from the States, often having to rappel over the riverbank into the gorge, services now outsourced by the town. Understand that our volunteers in NOTL are trained to the level of paid professionals and the National Fire Protection Association.

Queenston had NOTL's first female firefighter with our still active Deralyn George-Mackenzie, opening the doors to others who have since followed.

Hours of training with full-time jobs besides, new recruits require eight month/250 hours on nights and weekends, having to acquire Class DZ licences. At one particularly grisly accident on the Queenston-Lewiston bridge, an OPP officer asked Ken when "his shift" was over since he had been on scene for such a long time. The officer couldn't believe these firefighters were volunteers and said it was one of the most professionally managed rescue scenes he'd ever witnessed.

At the 1992 Christmas evening blaze that ravaged the Oban Inn, Ken was one of the last to leave at 4 a.m. At one point he had fallen into a sinkhole. After walking back alone to his pickup truck parked on the main street, he found his sleeves had frozen solid and had to whack them against a telephone pole just so he could get out his keys.

On the lighter side, at Private Eyes when a toilet seat was set afire, patrons assumed they were just "part of the show." A call for a "pool on fire"?! And not to forget the continuous fundraising for local sports, schools and charities.

Giving of their time, expertise and compassionate service, these first responders are an integral part of each of our NOTL communities, keeping safe our residents, property and visitors alike 24/7 when response time matters a great deal.

We honour our firefighters!

Cindy Hernder