Friday, February 26, 2010

Olympically Crazy

I have to bask for a brief moment in our newest gold for Canada, this time in men's speed skating team pursuit. Canada may not own the podium, but we own the most gold medals, and have the Olympic record for the most gold won by the home country. Maybe, just maybe we'll add to that record today. For my son's sake, I hope we do. Hockey is the one Olympic sport where silver isn't much of a consolation prize to a red-blooded Canadian.

Now that I'm done acting like a very un-Canadian braggart, I can tell you about my one and only semi-serious disagreement with a cop at an emergency scene. It was during a vehicle fire, in the middle of winter, the middle of nowhere, and the middle of the night. The dispute was about how much of the highway I could commandeer. I wanted the whole Trans-Canada highway . . . all two measly lanes of it. When you have guys wearing SCBA (which blocks peripheral vision), shrouded in smoke, and working inches away from tons of steel rocketing past at 110 km per hour, it seems reasonable to claim both lanes. The officer that arrived a few minutes later disagreed, and ordered my vehicles off the road. I made sure that was really what he wanted, then moved the trucks, like the good, respectful fire chief that I am. Then I told my guys to pack the stuff and head home, leaving the officer his highway, and a partially extinguished car fire.

As you can see, I don't have much stomach for argument. The fire was mostly out, it was -35, and I frankly didn't care about a smoking hull of steel sitting on the shoulder. I heard later that the tow truck operator had to finish extinguishing the vehicle part way back to the garage.

Later, I paid the officer a visit to salvage what was left of a long history of peaceful cooperation. He explained his views - my scene set up had not been by the book - and I explained mine. There still wasn't much point in arguing, but I think I did make my point clear. If we can't reach an agreement about something as important as scene safety, we're gone. No hard feelings. Like one of my bushwacker friends used to say, "Don't go away mad, just go away."

Just to be clear, this was an isolated incident, and we do continue our long history of peaceful cooperation. Sometimes you just have to draw a line in the sand (or in this case, the snow).

The moral of this story for cop or firefighter or paramedic, is that we have to protect our people from careless drivers . . . or just plain crazy drivers. No one wants one of their people to end up as a hood ornament.

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