By Kenyon Stronski
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Being a Firefighter isn’t something that can just be picked up and forgotten about — it requires commitment and the ability to put the time in for those who need it — while relinquishing time of your own. For some, it may be a hard choice, but it is a choice Chris Chabot and Kendra Day — two volunteer firefighters with the Town of Taber — are glad they made.
Chabot stated his initial drive in becoming a firefighter was just wanting to give back to the community that he’s lived in for so long.
“I started off by donating blood and I just felt like I could do more, and firefighting was the choice.”
Day stated she wanted to be a paramedic eventually and wanted to dip her toes into the field somehow.
“I thought firefighting was a really good way to do it, and now that I’ve started I’ve found I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Day has been firefighting for just over a year now, while Chabot has clocked in just over two years.
“This is much more than just being able to wear the Taber Fire t-shirt and getting to say you’re a firefighter though,” mentioned Chabot. “You have to be able to give enough time and it’s a much bigger commitment than you think. There are expectations and while they are easier in my opinion, you have to realize that you do need to give up movie nights, because if the pager goes off — it’s time to go. I would recommend this to anyone, but if you’re not willing and able I would say it’s not something for you. Within my first year of becoming a firefighter, I had to go to a call on Christmas Day, and I was just carving the turkey when the pager went off. I could tell everyone was sad I had to go, but, I had to go. Someone was having the worst day of their life in that very moment and it was Christmas. Like what a day to be having that kind of day, so really you have to be prepared to give up things like that, be committed and want to help.”
While it is a large time commitment, being a firefighter doesn’t come without its share of wholesome and gratifying moments.
“Just being able to help someone, finishing a call and knowing that you’ve helped make a difference in someone’s day is great,” said Day, “Although, I have heard it said that a firefighter’s best day is someone else’s worst day, so you have to keep that in mind every time you’re going to a call. You might be excited to finally go out, but the reason you are is because someone needs you.”
Day’s first call was assisting someone with a compound fracture in their leg, a sight that Chabot said was, “freaky, but also interesting. However, it was a really great learning experience on how to treat a patient and not make their situation worse. He also did an absolutely amazing job on maintaining his composure through the entire thing.”
“It seems like every week we have something new and interesting really, and then the next week there’s something that tops the last week,” added Day.
On the topic of his first fire, Chabot said it was a really big moment for him, but also devastating for the victims.
“It was December 22 and we were taking Christmas presents out of the house. I hate saying that it was fun, it was completely smoke-filled and I could hardly see, but it’s so humbling. We did such a great job as a team and it was really amazing to do, but there’s also such a negative to it. My heart goes out to everyone that is affected by fires.”
A small tidbit Chabot also added to this was; sleeping with your bedroom door closed can save your life.
“The house was completely smoke-filled, I couldn’t see the lieutenant in front of me, but the room that was downstairs had its door shut — and you wouldn’t have known there was a fire in the house. You could live in your bedroom for probably 15 minutes which gives us enough time to get to the hall, get the truck assembled and get you out.”
While firefighting is in the name of the job — the Taber Fire Department actually doesn’t deal with an incredibly high amount of fires on a yearly basis. With Chabot saying he only has been to two fires.
“Honestly, it’s almost not dealing with fires,” commented Day. “We do so much more: medical assists, citizen assists, lift assists. We do a lot of training for a large variety of scenarios.”
“We have to have a really broad spectrum with our training,” added Chabot. “We don’t have many of us so we need to know a lot — we have a lot to remember because when you’re not going into a house fire every week, you need to know what to do when it eventually comes along. The leadership is amazing though, they keep everything fun and enjoyable.”
Chabot recounted a time where someone fell out of a tree when they were trying to cut it down, and the firefighters that showed up cut the tree down afterwards.
“There’s really a whole side that the regular public doesn’t see, and honestly it’s not something we try to promote because we’re not about pumping ourselves up.”
It was also mentioned the turnover rate at the fire department was higher than initially thought.
“I think a lot of people realize that when they join it’s maybe a lot bigger of a commitment than they originally thought it would be,” said Chabot. “It does have some good to it though, because then you have new people that come in with different backgrounds and then you learn something new. I think we learn just as much from the new people as they learn from us.”
“We do really have an amazing team at the fire department,” said Day, “It’s a place that keeps you coming back.”