On the rebound

Kevin Curley
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Milton-George's Brook fire dept back in action

The Milton-George's Brook fire department has seen its fair share of problems in recent years.

The Milton-George's Brook volunteer fire department. Back row ( left to right) are: Sara Pelley Ivany and Audrey Adams; middle row: Corey Whalen, Andy Ivany, Kent Vey, Jeff Bray, Evan Cox, Wilson Gavin, Justin Bailey, Robert Stanley, Shawn Vokey and Trevor Webster; and front row: Brendan Mackey, Jason Adams, Dana Ivany, Darren Ellis and Rick Ploughman.

A lack of funds and membership forced the department to take a 10-month hiatus back in 2012, at which time the Clarenville fire department provided service for the area.

Since then, however, the department has rebounded nicely. They just received word that the province would provide $245,000 for the purchase of a new fire truck and their morale at an all time high and with increased membership.

Deputy chief Andy Ivany says the turnaround has been encouraging considering where they sat a few years ago.

"Membership declined because we didn't have the money to train and to buy equipment. We were at the point of fundraising just to put fuel in the trucks and you can't operate that way," says Ivany.

Ivany and Fire chief Shawn Vokey met with the Local Service District and resigned their positions in 2012 because they could no longer take on the responsibility knowing that lack of funding, membership and equipment could result in a disaster.

Since then, the Local Service increased service fees from $75 to $175 annually to enable more funding for the fire department.

There was practically no backlash. Ivany and Vokey say the community has been nothing but supportive.

The neighbouring fire departments of Random West and Smith's Sound also came on board to do joint training with Robert Ings, who worked nights and weekends to get members up to a Level 1 training level.

Right now they have 17 Level 1 members and three are gold seal, which means they are nationally recognized.

"Our biggest resurgence is probably because of funding. Now you can train as firefighters and not be here to raise money," says Vokey.

A small community also runs the risk of burnout with two or three volunteers trying to do all of the work, they say.

"Everyone does their part, which makes our job that much easier. Some fire departments get into a situation where one or two individuals are taking on too much," says Vokey.

In the last two years they have gone from a defensive (exterior attack only) fire-fighting department to offensive, which means they can get inside a building to knock down a fire. A defensive unit can't enter a unit to help if they think someone is trapped.

They began lobbying for a new fire truck two years ago and made their case based around the fact that the Clarenville fire department doesn't have a tanker and relies on fire hydrants.

The truck they've been using is from 1987 and still works well, but they always scared it could fail.

Funding from the provincial government this year will get them that a new truck.

"A big thing that brought this around is that the fire commissioners office and government saw the effort that is being put in by our local service committee and our members," says Ivany.

"They want to send those vehicles somewhere they know they will be used well and looked after. They saw the effort we put into the hall and the effort our members put into training, " says Vokey.

The comfort level the new truck will provide is immeasurable, they say, and they will still have their old truck as a backup.

"This new one gives us an extra 1000 gallons of water, which makes a huge difference," says Vokey.

The department meets every Thursday and is always looking for new volunteers.

"They want to send those vehicles somewhere they know they will be used well and looked after. They saw the effort we put into the hall and the effort our members put into training, " says Vokey.

The comfort level the new truck will provide is immeasurable, they say, and they will still have their old truck as a backup.

"This new one gives us an extra 1000 gallons of water, which makes a huge difference," says Vokey.

The department meets every Thursday and is always looking for new volunteers.

Organizations: Local Service District

Geographic location: Clarenville

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  • Morgan Ellis
    August 08, 2014 - 07:01

    I'm very proud of these Firefighters that we have in the community of George's Brook & Milton. They have what it takes to be a Firefighter and that's COURAGE, for them to take on this issue of the problems that were seen for this Fire Department they have made an accomplishment not only for themselves but they well stand out and be an example for what other Fire departments can do for their's too. COURAGE is something every Firefighter as to have in order to be a Firefighter and our Department surely has it. Hats off to you guys & gals