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Opinion: There's hot ... and then there's Hot.

You can be hotter, and make a difference

It's not quite the heat-wave of a week ago, but this week's up-tick in temperature across the Lakeland is keeping things hot.

Lugging the groceries across the parking lot during the heat-wave was pretty bad.  Trying to find some shade or a breeze ... or a way to hide your sweat streaks as you watched the kids running through the spray park during the heat-wave was challenging. Equally tough was the mental fortitude needed not to strip down to the delicate layers and run through the water features, letting your dad-bod hang out for all to see at the same spray park. And of course, daring to cook something using the stove in your non-air-conditioned apartment was a definite non-starter. Yup, we've had it rough. It was a challenge, but we made it through.  We are heroes.

OK hero, now just imagine if you had to put on 30 pounds of protective gear as you watched the kids under the baking sun or brought your groceries home to cook without using a heat-generating appliance. Now up the ante ... just a bit .. and stand 30 feet away from a raging fire during the heat of that same day ... tasked with protecting a neighbourhood and forests from burning to the ground.

Kind of makes that hot steering wheel seem a little silly now, doesn't it? 

Not surprisingly, fires can happen when it's really hot. Our forest firefighters were called into action several times in the Lac La Biche Forest Protection Area over the last two weeks as the mercury climbed to record-levels. Considering the fire hazards, and the amount of wood in this area we call the boreal forest, the results ... so far ... have been better than expected. Those results are thanks to the work of the fire crews and the equipment they carry — and perhaps because more people are carrying the message of fire awareness into our back-country.

Of course, not everyone was thinking straight during the heat-wave. A 38-year-old man is facing arson charges for igniting a fire that destroyed a Lac La Biche downtown building. The June 28 blaze brought out municipal firefighters from four different fire halls. They worked on the fire for eight hours, through the night ... and through temperatures that started at 30 degrees Celsius, and  never dropped below 24.

Unlike us — vacuuming the basement in our underwear, or wearing only shorts and a little top to go and grab the groceries, these front-line men and women can't just strip down to their skivvies to perform their duties.  Lac La Biche County's Regional Fire Chief John Kokotilo says the crews called out to these fires can't think about the discomfort of the heat or the challenges of a hot day.  He said they rely on each other ... and a support network from the community to do what has to be done.

He said the continual rotation of crews, constant hydration, food energy and rest periods in the departments newly-renovated ... and air-conditioned command trailer is the way they beat the heat at the recent fire. He said the fire department's support team played a crucial role in keeping firefighters in the fight at the recent callout. Community support was also a vital part, say municipal officials, publicly thanking local businesses and volunteers for bringing water and food to the fire crews, peace officers, utility crews, public works staff, ambulance personnel and RCMP involved in the heated event.

You can be hot too

So, as you recall how you made it through the heat-wave of '21, how your hot patio deck made your toes turn red or how your ceiling fan didn't turn off for nine-straight days, think how fortunate you are that you didn't have to wear an air tank, helmet, rubber boots and a jacket to get through it.  However —  if that added cargo is something you'd actually like to attach to your frame, local fire departments are looking for recruits right now.  All ages from cadets under 18 to mature adults. Jobs range from on-call paid front-line work to support staffing. 

Now that you've finished fanning yourself with a folded up copy of this fantastic newspaper, or the flat-screen tablet you're reading it on, use our online links to connect with the some local recruiting sites for area fire departments. It's hot out there, you could be hotter.

Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority

Lac La Biche County Protective Services

St. Paul Fire Department

Saddle Lake Cree Nation 

Elk Point Fire Department





Rob McKinley

About the Author: Rob McKinley

Rob has been in the media, marketing and promotion business for 30 years, working in the public sector, as well as media outlets in major metropolitan markets, smaller rural communities and Indigenous-focused settings.
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