They risked their own health and safety to save the lives of strangers and each and every recipient of the newly-created Fire Service Medal of Valour is well deserving of the honour.
On June 3, Warden Diana Brothers and area councillors presented medals of valour to 10 Valley firefighters. They included chaplain and safety officer Dr. Dan Gibson, firefighter Aaron Roulston and Capt. Mark Cruickshank of the Canning fire department; Capt. Shannon Cunningham, Capt. Bill Hazel, Capt. Jill Sanford and firefighter Garret Johnston of the Hantsport fire department; and Chief Ryan MacEachern, Lt. Sean Morrison and Capt. Pat McMullin of the Kentville fire department.
The Fire Service Civilian Medal of Honour was awarded to B.J. Cochrane of Hantsport and the special Final Alarm Medal was presented posthumously to Richard Arthur Walsh of the Kentville department. His son, Lt. Jeremy Walsh, also of the Kentville department, accepted the medal on behalf of the family.
We commend the County of Kings and Protective Services Manager Brian Desloges, himself a Kentville firefighter, for developing the new award program to recognize acts of valour and bravery on the part of our volunteer firefighters. It’s important to keep in mind the invaluable service to the community these men and women provide.
Firefighters take countless hours of their own time to devote to training so they can provide us with professional grade fire protection. Then, they commit countless more hours risking their own health and safety to protect the property and lives of others, fighting fires and responding to a cornucopia of other emergency situations.
Although these medals have honoured several astonishing acts by individuals, we recognize that there are many more heroes involved in the Kings County fire service who are just as deserving. Those who haven’t been recognized are the same breed of selfless volunteer who would have applied their training and done the same if they found themselves in similar circumstances.
On a strictly fiduciary level, every taxpayer in Kings County owes a debt of gratitude to our firefighters. Without people willing to provide such service on a volunteer basis, the municipality would still be bound by law to procure fire protection. Tax rates would go through the roof if we had to pay a full slate of professional firefighters. Our volunteer departments deserve the utmost respect. Just because they’re called ‘volunteers’ doesn’t mean they’re not ‘professional’.
We also commend County of Kings staff and council for working with volunteer departments to see that this budget year, for the first time, all firefighters who provide service to county citizens will be covered by workers compensation insurance. Some departments already had their own coverage, but now all will be covered in a uniform manner.
Brothers said, “It takes a courageous individual to put your life at risk every day. The least we can do is say thank you to those who tirelessly give their time to keep us safe.” We couldn’t agree more.
Other unsung heroes are the employers who allow our volunteer firefighters to leave work to attend emergency calls. They also deserve our thanks for directly and indirectly supporting and enabling the volunteer system.