Friday, February 25, 2011

Pseudo Crusader - One Last Rant

Every crusader needs a strategy. I'm more of a pseudo crusader, so I developed a pseudo strategy, which you might have read in my October 19 post. (You may also remember that I threw in a few pseudo facts about messy people being more efficient than tidy, organized ones.) My strategic political plans A and B were doomed from the get-go. Plan C, however, is beginning to show some promise.

[Side note: Here's where I secretly confess that there never was a plan. In keeping with my disorganized approach to life, I simply embraced an opportunity that presented itself].

Part of Plan C was to put in a plug for the CAFC's "Give Firefighters Credit Campaign," which asks for a tax credit for volunteer firefighters. Unlike my pseudo crusade, this one is organized, and has generated almost 2500 emails to MP's in the past four months. The CAFC's goal is to generate another 1000 emails before the federal budget is delivered next month. So take two minutes and help them out. Just go to the Give Firefighters Credit site and follow the links.

The other part of Plan C was Rafferty's motion for volunteer firefighters. I've heard rumblings that it might detract from the CAFC campaign, but I don't believe it has to be that way. Both ask for federal support for volunteer firefighters. Both will fail if lots of people don't write their MP's. Bottom line for both: spread the word.

Ugh. This blog is turning into a political lobbying platform. Up until a few months ago, I thought a lobby was the front entrance of a hotel. Now here I am all "Get politically involved! Write your MP! Your government really cares!" I think it's time to go back to writing about the weather gremlins, and the evil computer barons, and the anti volunteer syndicates.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hide and Seek

You'd think at least one of our 308 MP's would want to champion M-635 to help volunteer firefighters. And even though I lean toward political cynicism, I believe there is one out there in our vast country full of good people. . . somewhere. The trick is finding him or her.

It isn't like I can just show up on Parliament Hill and say, "Um, excuse me Mr. Speaker, I need to interrupt your very important business and ask these fine ladies and gentlemen a question," and then begin a Martin Luther King style diatribe on the worthy cause of volunteer firefighterism, until the bouncers hauled me out kicking and screaming, "You'll be sorry when you have bad luck for seven years, or when your rich uncle refuses to keel over and leave you his fortune . . . !" Scratch that idea.

Alternately, I could take a year or two off work and track the MP's down one by one until I found a kindred spirit, but I'm not not sure the government would allow me to live off welfare while I'm out pounding the pavement asking them for money for volunteer firefighters.

Another plan would be to send out 306 emails inviting MP's to advance the motion, and hope that the Parliament spam filters aren't working. I wouldn't need to send 308 emails because John Rafferty already supports the motion, and Stephen Harper would likely have to disinfect his computer if he found an email in support of an NDP motion in his inbox.

I didn't really mean that part about Stephen Harper. It was the political cynic side of my personality talking. I truly believe that once our venerated leaders see the need, they will drop their rivalries faster than they dropped their promises at election time, join hands in true bipartisan cooperation, and work together to create a workable solution for volunteer fire departments that won't break the budget. Except the budget is already broken.

Wow. The effort to combat my inner cynic is crumbling like a Dutch apple pie crust. Now would be a good time to make a snarky remark about political pie in the sky, but I'm trying to reform myself.

On the bright side, Laura King over at
Firefighting in Canada has posted a link to my sample MP letter on the magazine's Facebook page, and people are checking it out . . . which I hope means they are emailing their MP's. And maybe one of those MP's will see the need to advance M-635. And maybe it will move to second and third reading because lots of people wrote their MP's. And maybe it even has a chance to pass a parliamentary vote. And I'm not even going to say anything about pie in the sky because there is nothing I would love more than to see my inner cynic put to rest once and for all.

Bottom line, if you find an MP willing to pick up M-635 where John Rafferty had to leave it off, give him or her a call. Or send me the contact info and I'll give him or her a call. And I promise I won't say anything about bad luck or rich uncles.

Canada's volunteer fire departments aren't the only ones that are struggling. Right in the cradle of volunteer firefighter civilization, a
Pennsylvania department is having trouble keeping its head above water. Once I'm done with Canadian government reform, I may have to pay a visit to the White House and see if I can talk some sense into the Americans. More pie.

Moving on to practical topics, you can see Paul Combs latest work
here and here.

For a story about the pipeline explosion on Saturday near Beardmore,
click here. I don't know anything about the response to the incident, except that the good volunteers of Beardmore were undoubtedly involved.

Thanks to
The Fire Critic, I found a new blog today that looks promising. Check out Just a Vollie.

No comment today about the disaster in New Zealand, or the chaos in Libya. The media is full of news and opinions, and you don't need my two cents.

To round out this menagerie of semi related topics, check out this firefighter tool that was reinvented by a
Connecticut firefighter.

Saturday, February 19, 2011


There is an old saying that new recruits are given a full bag of luck and an empty bag of experience. Their mission is to fill the bag of experience before the bag of luck runs out. Relying on luck is never a good idea, whether you're as green as a spruce sapling or as seasoned as an old shoe. It's a neat saying though, and while I hate to admit it, we have had our share of fortuitous breaks.

Like the time we were paged to a tractor trailer fire containing corrosives, flammable liquids, and radioactive material. Ugh. Those are the kinds of fires you fight with binoculars. In our infinite firefighting wisdom though, we took another agency's opinion which said it was safe to fight the fire. We found later that the radioactive material's protective shield had been damaged in the fire (it wasn't supposed to do that) and that we had all been exposed to small amounts of gamma radiation. We had worn full PPE including SCBA (which doesn't protect against gamma) and kept our distance (which does), but it was only because the quantity of radioactive material was small that we were not harmed. Put simply, we managed the incident safely through a combination of good policy, training, and luck.

That happened over ten years ago. To see a more recent example of a firefighter escaping injury at least partly through luck, click here.

On a semi related topic, click here to read an article I wrote about being qualified, and click here to see a cartoon I drew to accompany it.

On a completely different topic (we bloggers are allowed to switch topics with the wind if we want), I thought I'd do some research to see if MP Rafferty's motion was igniting our country in a blaze of passion for volunteer firefighters. You know . . . MP's vowing to offer their firstborn if it didn't pass, and Egyptian style demonstrations in the streets of Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver because the motion was still lost in the red tape of first reading. I typed in M-635 and was pleasantly surprised to get 227 million hits . . . except that they were all about BMW's, Polaroids, and laptops, and nothing about Egyptian style demonstrations.

I narrowed the search to weed out all that trivial commercialized riffraff, and got a handful of hits. The same ones I got last week. There was one small bonus: my blog was at the top of the list. Except that I only have 12 followers, so I don't think it qualifies as "igniting our country in a blaze of passion." But there is still time. The motion will stay safely in the limbo of first reading until another one of our 308 MP's moves it forward, or until the next election.

If you want to see what a motion looks like when it's buried in the limbo of first reading, click here. That was only one day of motions and bills and other business, and every day more stuff gets piled on top. M-635 could definitely use a little luck right now.

Or . . . you could take the bull by the horns and write your MP to support the motion. That is the only way that anyone will give even a passing glance at M-635. Just click the link on the right side and follow the instructions. I tested it out, and it took three minutes from start to finish. That included finding my MP with the handy MP Finder Thingy, cutting and pasting the letter into an email, typing in the names, and sending it. No pressure or anything, but if you don't send the letter, you might have bad luck for seven years and your rich uncle will never keel over and leave you his fortune.

It's funny. That threat sounds just as lame as it did the first time I used it.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Just do it!

Support for MP Rafferty's volunteer firefighter motion isn't spreading like wildfire in a snowless spring yet, but we're working on it (yes, I have now used that simile three times in two posts).

It's hard for any politically marginal idea to spread, especially if it has a potentially large price tag. It doesn't help that we've been drowning in the rains of recession for a couple years, and that money is as scarce as dry socks in a monsoon (finally a new simile). You can help dry out the forest though, but clicking my fancy new M-635 button on the right side. It will take you to a page with a sample letter to your MP in support of the motion for volunteer firefighters, and some hopefully helpful hints to make it easy to customize and send the letter.

You can read some other chiefs' perspective on the motion here.

As if the forest isn't wet enough, we have another teensy, weensy problem. In order for the motion to move to second reading, another MP must pick it up and move it forward, because MP Rafferty has already reached his quota for this term. Yet another reason to send the letter of support to your MP: he or she might be able to get in on the action to support volunteer firefighters.

Please send the letter, even though I can't promise you riches and good luck. Come to think of it, I could promise you riches and good luck . . . I just couldn't keep the promise. Hey, it works at election time.

Just send the letter.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

fan the flame (please)

Successful politicking is like successful Facebooking and Twittering and Swine Fluing. Your idea has to go viral, or it goes nowhere.
For example:
A lonely Egyptian Facebooker posts something about his president being a bonehead and let's take a cue from Tunisia and get rid of him. The idea caught the attention of his countrymen like wildfire in a snowless spring, and eighteen days later, a thirty year dictatorship comes to an end.
A disgruntled musician complains to deaf ears about United breaking his guitar, then makes a trilogy of hilarious music videos about the ensuing customer service fiasco. In the process, he becomes a celebrity almost overnight.

A politician writes a motion in support of volunteer firefighters at the request of some small-time fire chiefs, and . . . and . . . I don't know the end of that story yet. I do know that if the idea is not supported by letters and emails from lots and lots of people, M-635 will be forgotten as quickly as it was created.

If the Egyptians and the world had said, "Ho-hum. Who cares about Mubarak?" Wael Ghonim would still be rotting in jail while Mubarak ate prime rib in his palace (or wherever Egyptian presidents live). But they didn't say ho-hum. They passed the word.

If Dave Carroll had only pounded on the private doors of United Airline Customer Service, he would have been ignored in spite of the rightness of his grievance. But he put his frustration to creative use and the world took notice. It got our attention because we've all had similar experiences. We might not have cared about his broken guitar, but we liked his videos. And maybe United will be more careful with their customer service.

Here's where I'm supposed to tell you to forward the M-635 link to every person you know, and ask them to send it to all their friends, and friends friends, and their friends' pets, and their pets' fleas . . . and ask all of them to write their MP's in support of the motion. And if you don't, it's obvious that you hate volunteer firefighters, your country, your province, your community, and your mother. On top of that, you'll have bad luck for seven years. And don't forget that my brother's cousin's sister's nephew forwarded this page to all of his Facebook friends and he became an instant millionaire when a long lost uncle returned from the South Seas, keeled over dead, and left his vast fortune.

And we can all sit down for some pie-in-the-sky.

What was my point again? Ah yes. The only way that the Motion to Assist Volunteer Firefighters will have any positive effect is if a large number of Canadians make it have an effect. We won't have bad luck for seven years if we don't, and our long-lost uncles might not reappear if we do, but our volunteer fire departments might get some help down the road if it passes.

There is no way to coerce the world into taking this idea and spreading it like wildfire in a snowless spring (I just had to use that simile again). I don't expect the cities of Canada to break out in chaos all, "Support our volunteer firefighters, or suffer the wrath of the people." The 80% of our population that lives in cities isn't going to get on the bandwagon of the 20% that live in the boonies.

M-635 may not go viral, but at least it's a tiny pin prick of light on a dark horizon. Let's fan the flame.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hot off the press

MP John Rafferty introduced a motion in Parliament this week in support of volunteer firefighters. I would love to say that this will change the world, and more importantly, prompt our government to provide tangible support to volunteer firefighters across the country. I would love to say that all of our venerated MP's will smack their foreheads and say, "Why didn't we think of doing that?" and "Wow, we'd better get right on this and set aside a few billion dollars for volunteer fire departments in the 2011 budget."

But you know I'm not going to say that because even if the motion passes, it has no teeth, and no mechanism to actually provide the support that it calls for. But it is a good first step, and I do appreciate Mr. Rafferty stepping up to the plate for us. And it might not be all in vain. He said that at least it will put the issue in the spotlight, and possibly pave the way for future legislation that will have teeth and provide tangible support.

Here is the motion:
Mr. Rafferty (Thunder Bay—Rainy River) — That, in the opinion of the House, the government should consider providing funding to volunteer fire departments across Canada, working with provincial and municipal governments to ensure that these departments receive sufficient operational funding, and, if no agreement can be reached with necessary governments, the government should immediately move to create another funding stream accessible to volunteer fire departments that do not infringe on provincial jurisdictions.

And here is a link to the press release that accompanies it.

Write your MP in support of this!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gizmos and other Various and Sundries

After I buy a jet propelled master stream from the Chinese, I think I'll get a flying robot from the Australians. You can never have too much technology, especially cool firefighting gizmos. The flying robot would be especially useful on those 100 km round trips down the highway in -40 weather. I can see it now . . . sitting on my couch watching hockey and fighting fires in Raith with my flying remote control robopumper. Except that I think the Aussie gizmo is just a flying camera and doesn't fight the fire. I'll have to put in an order for a model with a 625 gpm pump and a thousand gallon tank for the new improved version.

Speaking of new and improved, check out the Fire Within's new and improved Facebook page. Chad Sartison is on a mission to take North America by storm. It's nice to have a smart, talented entrepreneur on the side of volunteer firefighters. Our calendar project here was not a stunning success, but we did make a few bucks and raised some awareness. Most importantly, it opened my eyes to the fact that the majority of the folks really don't know or care much about us. Knowledge is power, and hopefully 2011 will be a year of strategies to change this perception, or rather lack thereof.

If you have any 2009/10 Blaze Firefighter gloves in your hall, check out this website. Six New York Fire Department firefighters suffered second degree burns to the backs of their hands while wearing the gloves, and the department is taking $850,000 worth of gloves out of service. That's a lot of gloves.

If you think my rantings about Groundhog Day predictions were far out, you should know that Pittgirl from That's Church believes that Pennsylvania's Punxsutawney Phil made a true prediction this year. The groundhog didn't see his shadow, and now the weatherman says that warmer temperatures are on the way . . for Pittsburgh, which is a few lightyears away from Upsala. It has been -30 here every night for the past three or four days, with a windchill of minus gazillion, but they say that it's going to climb to near zero on the weekend.

We're going skiing this week, so the milder temperatures will be welcome. When you are hurtling down a hill at a thousand km an hour, a minus gazillion windchill turns into . . . well . . . minus gazillion times a thousand windchill. Just believe me, it's cold (my math isn't that good).

You can read about my ski escapades and see a couple videos here, here, and here.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Contests and aimless ramblings

If your dream is to be the Official Voice of Sparky the Fire Dog, now is the chance of a lifetime. Sparky celebrates his 60th birthday on March 18, 2011, and to mark the occasion, the NFPA is hosting a contest to be the voice of our favourite famous fire dog. Any firefighter or employee of a fire department can enter by making a video of his or her best Sparky impersonation. For more information and details about entering, click here.

Baskin and Robbins is also hosting a competition to become the firefighter face of the 2012 Baskin Robbins CFFF campaign, with a chance to win free ice cream for a year for you and your crew. To enter, send a photo of yourself, or a firefighter that you nominate to: The contest rules and forms (which you must use to enter) were emailed to me, and I can't seem to find them on any web page, but you can learn more about the contest at the Baskin and Robbins site, and at last year's CFFF site. If you are interested in entering, and don't have the forms, send me an email and I'll forward them to you. The deadline is February 25.

Hydrant Girl made it to the top 5 for Best Canadian Blog over at the 2011 Weblog Awards. If you want to help her win, click here, then click on the word Canadian on the left side. You have to cast two other votes as well, and reply to the verification email they send you.

Graham from Atikokan posted a facebook video showing what happens when you throw boiling water into the air at -30. Graham's video is for his facebook friends only, but I found a similar video on Youtube. No, it's not a contest, just a cool thing to do.

No wonder it's so tough to fight fires in those temperatures. The water vaporizes before it ever reaches the fire.

Speaking of firefighting (this is supposed to be a firefighter blog after all) the Chinese have come up with a jet propelled master stream. I could see infinite uses for this in Upsala . . . for about 30 seconds until our pumper and tanker ran out of water.

I was going to rant and rave about the challenges facing volunteer firefighters, but it's much more fun to ramble aimlessly about various and sundry unrelated topics.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


Brian over at The Damage is Done (formerly Switch2Planb) is hosting a contest to bribe his followers back. He lost his domain name for some cyberly mishapish reason that I don't understand, and his 72 followers went down the tubes with the domain name. Actually, we didn't go down the tubes. We just lost contact with him and thought that he had escaped to Switzerland with all the millions of dollars of blogging loot he's made in the past few years. Anyway, he's still out there in cyberspace, and is giving away a couple of $20 gift cards to lure us back.

Here's the deal: go to his new site, The Damage is Done, and click 'Follow' to be entered into the contest. If he figures out through his internetish wizardry that you followed at my referral, I'll get an Amazon gift card too.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Of Groundhogs, Lynx, and Politics

Legend has it that the groundhog wakes up on February 2 and comes out to check the weather. If he sees his shadow, he spooks and runs back down his hole, precipitating another six weeks of cold weather. If he doesn't see his shadow, spring is supposed to come.

Somehow the legend just doesn't work in this part of the country. It was -30 this morning. No self respecting groundhog would stir in this weather, even if he could dig out from under the couple feet of ice and snow that blocks the entrance of his den. It's too bad, actually. If he could have made it out, the blinding winter sun would have scared the living daylights out of him. He would have run back down his hole faster than greased lightning . . . and we would only get six more weeks of winter.

[Side note: Even the most magical rodent wouldn't be able to bring spring in February, but last year proved that mid March is a possibility. However, last year Groundhog Day was cloudy. So much for that legend.]

Speaking of critters, my neighbour Christina Harris photographed this lynx on the way to a sledding party last Sunday. This cat was born to live in -30.

I made an error in my last blog. The Trans Canada isn't 6000 km long. It's 7820 kilometres long. 7466 of those kilometres are covered in part or in whole by volunteers . . . according to my scientific research. Yes, the idea of me doing scientific research is still hilarious.

MP Rafferty is tabling a Parliamentary motion in support of volunteer firefighters in the near future. I will keep you posted so that you can write your MP to tell him or her to support it, or face the prospect of being voted out faster than a frostbitten groundhog running down his hole on in February. Or something like that.

Brian from SwitchtoPlanb has switched his blog to Plan B, and now can be found here or in the blog roll on the side at The Damage is Done.

I have more aimless ramblings to write but it is only an hour until midnight, after which it will no longer be Groundhog Day, and I might turn into a pumpkin.

I'll leave you with a link to Paul Combs' newest cartoon.

After note: I was in such a hurry to post before pumpkin hour that I forgot to add one more important link to the Canadian Volunteer Firefighters Association. I will eventually add a permanent link on the side, but this will aim you in their direction for now. At some point or other I may post some of my less aimless ramblings on their blog, which will hopefully be up and running soon.

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