Thursday, June 25, 2009

highway stuff

Michael Jackson is dead. So is Farrah Fawcett. Their stories have already dominated the news, but if you want to read what CNN has to say, click here and here. My first recollection of Michael Jackson was the cartoon about the Jackson Five which featured his singing group in animated form. But I am dating myself.

I came within a whisker of smucking a bear yesterday (nothing to do with Michael Jackson - hey, this is supposed to be a firefighting blog). In true beastly fashion, he (the bear, not Michael) appeared out of nowhere leaving me the precarious choice of hitting him, an oncoming transport, or a narrow slot in between. I chose the narrow slot, and almost felt his fur brush my truck. Literally a whisker away. He ambled off like nothing happened. I continued on my way as well, thankful that I wasn't going to give the local volunteer firefighters some excitement on this otherwise boring day. I'm supposed to respond to these incidents, not cause them.

Some friendly bikers from Quebec stopped by the fire hall today. These weren't your typical Quebec bikers . . . not that I'm personally acquainted with any, but I do read the news. These folks were from a firefighters' biker club called the Fire Knights, or something like that. They were on what they called the Grand Tour, which meant they had to visit fire departments from towns and cities whose names started with the letters from "Grand Tour." Most of the letters are no problem - Guelph, Richmond, Abbotsford, Niagara Falls. But U was a a bit tricky. There aren't many places in Canada that start with U. Uxbridge. Upton. Upsala. That about does it. Since Upsala is on the way to Abbotsford, we got the honor of a visit. He took a photo of his bike next to an Upsala fire truck, thanked me for my help in keeping such an important landmark alive for his club, and headed off down the road.

Upsala is inextricably entwined with the Trans-Canada Highway. It probably has something to do with our village straddling the only highway to span the country. There was talk of rerouting the highway a number of years ago. It likely would have been the end of us. Most folks in the 2000+ cars that pass through here daily don't actually have Upsala in mind. They're on the way to Calgary or Toronto or Vancouver. A few stick around and fish or hunt, but most pass through without so much as a wave. Click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to read my post on ways to remember our fair village (April 6, Where the Heck is Upsala).

The highway accounts for about 75-80% of our call volume, which is why I take such a keen interest in driving safety issues. The life blood of Canada flows through here. A fair bit of crap does too. Last week we responded to a transport rollover that contained about 15 different hazardous materials. Another time we shut down this main artery of Canada for nine or ten hours to deal with a truck fire involving radioactive materials.

Lots of bad things happen when drivers get careless. Click here for a story about a guy who wasn't paying attention to his driving. A potential cereal killer if I ever heard of one.

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