Port Moody firefighters answer the call to boost community morale

Firefighter do more than just keep people safe. They're also keeping them keep their spirits high

Port Moody Fire Rescue is proud of its antique 1949 Mercury pumper truck.

But now firefighters want to hide it from view.

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The gleaming red vehicle with a finicky double clutch is driven in parades, displayed at community events and used to collect donations for the annual Christmas toy drive. When it’s not out and about, it occupies pride of place in its own windowed parking bay at Inlet station where passersby can admire it.

Jeff Scallion, a lieutenant with the department, is hoping to collect enough drawings, pictures, cards and posters of thank you messages to front-line workers to plaster the expansive windows of the antique pumper’s parking spot to hide it from view.

The contest, which runs until April 30, is open to kids up to Grade 5, and prizes are going to be awarded in each age category.

But, more importantly, Scallion said it’s part of the department’s ongoing efforts to boost morale in the community as it struggles with the stresses and restrictions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He said firefighters are acutely aware of the impact the public health and economic emergency is having on everyone. They’re reminded every time they respond to a call and have to thoroughly parse a mental checklist to ensure they’ve donned all the proper protective equipment to minimize their own risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Scallion said firefighters embrace the cohesive role they play in the community, not only being there in their time of need, but also bringing people together to help each other. 

That’s why it’s often an all-hands effort for their annual blood donor clinic, pancake breakfast or even promoting the upcoming Hometown Heroes lottery that supports the BC Professional Firefighters’ Burn Fund.

But with most of those efforts now on hold, Scallion said firefighters are finding new ways to connect with the community they serve, like participating in the nightly cacophony of noise that rises from windows, doorways, balconies and stoops to remind front-line workers how much their contribution to the battle against COVID-19 is appreciated. They're even offering to do drive-by parades for kids' birthdays.

“We’re still bringing people together, but now we’re staying apart,” Scallion said.

His boss, fire chief Ron Coulson, said firefighters have the capability to the current pandemic crisis into a “teachable moment” that reminds people of the importance of looking out for each other and their community.

“We’re doing our small bit to support public safety,” he said.

• Entries to Port Moody Fire Rescue’s contest to hide its antique pumper with thanks for frontline workers can be dropped off in a box at the front door of Inlet station, 150 Newport Dr., by 3 p.m., April 30. Drawings can be up to 11 X 17.

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