Thursday, April 8, 2010


There are certain things that just aren't done. For example, it's a big no-no for fire departments to cross municipal boundaries and respond to emergencies in a neighbouring fire department's territory. To make an analogy from the retail sales world, the Ignace Avon rep would never think of selling nail polish to customers in Dryden or Upsala or Thunder Bay. That would be trespassing on someone else's turf, and it just isn't done. Fire responses aren't like that, but at least you get the idea.

The "stick to your turf" rule has some merit . . . Township A would be really mad if they needed a manicure and all of their nail polish was being squandered in Township B. Or if one of their houses burned to the basement while their trucks were gallivanting in Township B.

But like all rules, this one is dumb sometimes. Township B needs Township A's nail polish occasionally, and vice-versa. So Townships A and B sit down and make a deal. "You can sell nail polish to my customers (if I ask you to), and I can sell nail polish to your customers (if you ask me to)." It works well, since neither township has a high demand for nail polish (or gets many fires). And why should Township A's firefighters twiddle their thumbs (or polish their nails), while Township B exhausts its crews on the fire of the century?

This is how the Mutual Aid system works in centrally universal rural Ontario. Screw the turf rules (under certain circumstances) and let's work together.

Usually, Township B is sandwiched nicely between Townships A and C, which makes for cozy Mutual Aid agreements. In fringe areas, the townships have neighbours on only one side, with the Great Canadian Wilderness (the dread "no-man's land") on the other.

If you look at a map of Upsala, which is on the peripheral edge of the universe, you'll notice that we're an island in the middle of the Great Canadian Wilderness. Our neighbours in Ignace and Shebandowan have to drive an hour through the dread no-man's land to get here.

This is all fine and good and relatively irrelevant. We know that we live on the boreal equivalent of a secluded tropical island. Except that ours is either frozen or mosquito-infested depending on the season, so that's a worse analogy than the nail polish. But you get the point. In a culture where leaving your boundary is a no-no, Mutual Aid to Upsala is close to intergalactic travel . . . so we're on our own most of the time. Which is also fine. We know this already.

Except that "no-man's land" doesn't mean that no one lives there. Upsala is surrounded by microscopic islands of humanity even tinier and more unorganized than we are. A cottage here. A small business there. "No-man's land" simply means that there is not enough population to support a fire department.

Even this is relatively irrelevant to most of the people in the universe, including us . . . until a house in no-man's land catches fire, or a traveller crashes. Then there is a request for an intergalactic space rescue mission, and they call us because no one else will go. In a culture where leaving your boundary is a no-no, it becomes problematic. Click here to read about one such response that we made a number of years ago. Click here to see a cartoon I drew about our mutual aid dilemma.

There is no answer to the problem, except to invest in rocket propellers for our trucks to get us there and back faster.

Speaking of rockets, I'm sure you heard that the US and Russia signed a deal to reduce nuclear armaments. Now they will only be able to destroy the earth a dozen times. But it's progress.

Back on earth, one of our marginal neighbours, Kaministiquia (say what?) just finished a response to a huge pile of burning railroad ties. Fortunately, they have neighbours that can help without travelling through space, and they were able to resolve the situation before it escalated into a full-blown forest fire. Here's a picture, courtesy of the Kam Fire Chief, Ken VanEvery. Good work Kam!


  1. Down here, if City B needs some nail polish then County A is going go in, uninvited, and paint the whole damn town...Then ask for forgiveness later. Chances are, City B doesn't know how to do its nails right anyway...

    Did I get that metaphor right?

  2. You nailed it (so to speak). :-)


Have a comment? Go for it! It's lonely out here in bloggerland . . .

Search This Blog