Thursday, May 28, 2009


At a fire scene, we like to talk about benchmarks. Things like the first water on the fire, a building search completed, the fire under control . . . we use these events as a kind of barometer to help determine our progress. You know, if we've been there 30 minutes and haven't put any water on the fire yet, it's a bad day for everyone.

Season's have benchmarks too. Things like the ice going off the lakes (see my May 7 post), the first tulip, the first feed of fresh peas, the first frost. Sometimes things aren't quite that cut and dry though. Take for example, the first snowfall. If it comes in the middle of July, is it really the first snowfall of this winter, or is it the last snowfall of last winter? Either way it sucks. Nobody likes snow in July. But I digress.

Upsala reached a seasonal benchmark today. The first cloud of black flies appeared. Ugh. Fortunately they were as sluggish as my lawnmower, which I tried to awaken out of hibernation today (another benchmark - the first lawn mowing. Ugh again). They won't stay sluggish for long though. Pound for pound, they have the largest appetite of any creature in the Western Hemisphere (I just made that up). Ecuador and Columbia have piranhas. Northern Ontario has black flies. They are so entrenched in our culture that there is a song about them, written by Wade Hemsworth. If you've never heard this essential musical benchmark in Canadian culture click here. The only thing that comes close to the ferocity of the black fly is the Northern Ontario mosquito. One exceptionally large specimen hovers over the Upsala Canop.

We're training in Ignace this weekend. Fifteen brave souls have showed up knowing that they are going to be fed to these winged wolves one drop of blood at a time if the temperature gets above 20 degrees. I've always said volunteer firefighters are either crazy or tremendously dedicated.

Actually, they're probably both.

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