Bolstering bravery on the front lines

Tyendinaga Mohawk fire department equips volunteers with new bunker gear

They’re first on the scene, and first to take risks for others. So protecting firefighters on the front lines, says Scott Maracle, cannot be a secondary thought.

In such a challenging profession, keeping the crew properly equipped with up-to-date bunker gear is vital to their welfare, he says.

“When you’re putting your guys into the fire it’s important their bunker gear is replaced every 10 years,” says Maracle, fire chief for the volunteer-run Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte (MBQ) Fire Department in Tyendinaga, Ontario.

Through assistance from Enbridge’s Safe Community program, the MBQ Fire Department can protect its firefighters and meet National Fire Protection Association safety standards.

Manufacturers date-stamp each piece of protective gear, including gloves, hoods, helmets and boots, for tracking and replacement purposes. By replacing gear as it expires, fire departments ensure equipment reliability and crew safety—and also benefit from new technology, which allows for the creation of lighter, more protective, and more comfortable bunker gear.

“They’re always improving the design, changing how it fits. It used to be a square box with pants,” says Maracle. “Now the pants are pleated, with padding on the knees, and jackets have extra supports around the shoulder area, making it more comfortable to carry heavy equipment.”

Enbridge’s recent $19,200 Safe Community donation has helped replace protective gear for some of Maracle’s volunteers—and also allowed the MBQ Fire Department to consider purchasing a thermal imaging camera, which shows the smallest changes in temperature. These cameras allow firefighters to see areas of heat through smoke, darkness, or heat-permeable barriers.

“During training one evening, we sent one of our guys 200 meters outside where we couldn’t see him,” recounts Maracle. “We were able to use the camera to locate him. It’s important to keep up with technology because it changes so much.”

Members of the 25-member MBQ Fire Department are trained to provide fire suppression, water and ice rescue, search and rescue, and other calls that can arise in the 2,400-member Tyendinaga Mohawk community. As part of a mutual aid agreement, the MBQ Fire Department also supports the Township of Tyendinaga, Belleville, Deseronto, and Prince Edward County.

“We want to help people who are risking their lives to keep our communities safe,” says Sonia Fazari, an Ontario-based senior Aboriginal affairs advisor with Enbridge. “Through our Safe Community program, we can help local firefighters stay up-to-date with new technology, keeping them protected and performing at their best.”

To date, the Safe Community program has provided about $8.5 million in financial assistance, boosting the capabilities of emergency responder organizations near our projects and facilities throughout North America.

“Without the funding we’d be scraping to meet standards and be about a year behind,” says Maracle. “Receiving the grant is just marvelous. It takes so much burden off the budget. We greatly appreciate the financial support.”