To the amusement of some, I always visit a fire station, wherever I am, to see how they do what we all do.
Those visits have included places as diverse as Kathmandu, Nepal, London, England, Kandy, Sri Lanka, and Istanbul, Turkey.
And yesterday I added Ilulissat, Greenland, to the list.
Fire protection, as essential as it is, typically suffers some degree of financial parsimony perhaps due to the fact that it is a “natural” phenomenon like lightening and therefore subject to the human trait of denial– after all, I’ll never be struck by lightening, right?
It also doesn’t help that in the public mind fire often appears to strike on a whim suggesting that it was going to happen anyway; the opposite is usually the case–building fires are most often directly traceable to faulty human activity of one type or another.
Of course, the incidence of fire is substantially accelerated by humans and “firefighters” do more than fight fires, most especially they are first responders for many emergency medical calls and rescues of all types.
Even though it is a very small community, Ilulissat’s fire department is well advanced.
My favorite place to have a look-see is where the crew rides in the first-out rig, not up front, but rather where the firefighters are.
In an instant you can see what they do, how they do it and where they fit in the worldwide community of firefighters.
More often than not, you can’t tell where you are because of the rather extraordinary “sameness” of the basics, even across continents.
Sure enough, their first responding engine’s crew area was like any other you would see in any first class fire and rescue department.
The Greenland fire service is modeled after the Danish one and follows the same standards.
There is a single fire station in the community and it is manned from 0800 to 1600 by one firefighter.
There are paid on-call firefighters in the community who will respond to the station in the event of an alarm and the rig will leave when it has a crew of four, minimum, including a leader, but at least within five minutes.
After 1600, the station firefighter can go home but is also on call, as well. In fact, he works that schedule for seven days in a row and then has a week off.
The chief officer is always on call and must respond within one minute.
They have a 30-meter aerial device, a hand-me-down from the Nuuk fire department and several older rigs, as well.
The second out unit is the tanker, perhaps the only unfrozen water for much of the year, as we are 200 miles above the arctic circle.
Glance at the crew cab and protective clothing of any rig anywhere and it is a crucial reminder of the critical role that standards and regulations play in how we do our job.
What you see didn’t happen by chance.