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Niagara Falls
Wednesday, March 22, 2023
Op-ed: Your NOTL firefighters cannot do it alone

Fire Chief Nick Ruller
Special to The Lake Report

As a volunteer firefighter, there were many things that I loved about the position.

The opportunity to make someone’s day better, being surrounded by others who deeply care about their community, the camaraderie and the excitement. The unwavering support from the community has always been here in Niagara-on-the-Lake and, now as fire chief, I am even more appreciative for it. 

Inevitably, our volunteer firefighters are often dealing with highly emotionally charged situations, where there is tremendous risk to both life and property. In my 22 years in  the fire service, it has become overwhelmingly clear that our response can never be fast enough when tragedy strikes.

As soon as an individual realizes they need help, they immediately need us there to mitigate the incident. Unfortunately, we cannot be at  the scene at the emergency’s inception. 

According to Dr. David Eagleman, a neuroscientist and adjunct professor at Stanford University, “because memories are laid down more richly during a frightening situation, the event seems to have taken longer in retrospect.”

Consequently, more often than not, our firefighters are subjected to unjustified criticism over the time it took them to arrive on scene. I am proud to share that, at our most recent fire, we had a four-person crew arrive on scene with water applied to the fire in less than eight minutes. 

Let us consider what transpires in those eight minutes. Volunteer firefighters have a pager activate via two-tone paging signals that include a voice message providing information regarding the incident (one minute).

Now, the firefighter prepares to leave work, home, a restaurant or other event to drive to the fire station (one to two minutes). Firefighters proceed in their personal vehicles with a flashing green light activated, relying on motorists to yield to them so they can arrive at the station as soon as possible (three to five minutes).

Upon arrival, they don protective clothing and board a fire apparatus with anywhere from three to five other firefighters (one to two minutes). Now, they are en route to the incident location, relying on motorists once again to yield the right-of-way so the fire truck can arrive on scene as fast and safely as possible (up to six minutes). 

Fire safety requires a partnership between residents and their firefighters. Your firefighters cannot do it alone.  

Our firefighters hold themselves to very high standards. As an organization, we have an established training curriculum, mandatory training and performance objectives, all based off North American standards.

Volunteer firefighters train weekly on focused deployment drills for firefighting, emergency medical response and auto extrication, to  name a few disciplines. We invest in modern personal protective equipment, fire apparatus and firefighting equipment. We have standing programs to ensure that  firefighting equipment is tested and maintained in a state of operational readiness. 

As residents, we need you to take personal responsibility for your fire safety. Ensure you have working smoke alarms on every level of your home. Test your alarms, change the batteries regularly, ensure the devices are not too old.

Invest in fire extinguishers and ensure you know how to utilize them. Practice a home escape plan with your family so they know what to do if a fire occurs. Yield to flashing green lights and all responding fire vehicles. As employers, allow our volunteer firefighters to respond during business hours where practical and reasonable. 

Your volunteer firefighters have been here to help you since 1816. They are committed  to being high-performing, progressive and visionary in the provision of emergency  services within our community. Nonetheless, they need you to do your part.

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