The essence of firefighting is helping your neighbour, and after 20 years, the members of Mission Fire/Rescue Service’s station three continue to serve in that spirit.
From the original 17 members, five still remain, and on Saturday will be celebrating two decades of putting their lives on the line for Silverdale residents’ safety and property.
Before the Silverhill Avenue station was built, the community fire protection was provided by station one, located on Seventh Avenue, and if there was a house fire or other serious incident, it would take at least 10 minutes for that first truck to arrive.
Now, that time has been cut roughly in half, resulting in far better saves, say the paid on-call volunteers.
Chief Mike Lavallee, Capt. Leonard Pesonen, Lieut. Phil Daigle, Lieut. Joe McElroy, and Firefighter Kevin O’Beirne each shared several stories recently about how the hall’s location and its contingent of firefighters have benefited the close-knit rural community.
In particular, Pesonen recalled a house fire last year just up from the hall that started between the laundry room and garage. The close proximity of the station enabled firefighters to arrive quickly, and quench the fire before it spread to the rest of the house.
Station three came into being from the simple premise that the community wanted it, said O’Beirne. The Southwest Mission Ratepayers — helmed at the time by Kevin’s father, Tom O’Beirne — came together and put on countless fundraisers to match dollar for dollar what the district contributed. The province then matched that total with a grant.
Daigle, who will be retiring this year, remembers coming into the hall for the first time in December 1991 and finding one fire truck next to a large pile of lumber. “It was so big we had to crawl over it to get to the truck,” he said with a laugh.
Each man had different reasons for joining up, and staying for 20 years.
Pesonen said he knew several people at his work in Maple Ridge who were firefighters, so when the call went out that Silverdale was getting its hall, he put his name forward because he didn’t think there would be a large number of younger men able to meet the time or physical demands of the job.
Daigle had lived in several cities growing up and always thought it “would be neat to be a firefighter, but I was too small.” When the community asked for volunteers, he applied.
O’Beirne sat on the fire committee when the project was getting started, and when he began asking people to sign up as firefighters, a friend said they should sign up together.
“I signed up, but he never did,” O’Beirne chuckled. “But it’s been a great experience.
Joe McElroy’s wife pushed him to try it, and since he had lived in the adjacent Silverhill School for seven years, it was an easy commute in the middle of the night.
For Lavallee, he was looking for a way to contribute to a community in which he had lived for only 18 months at that time, and firefighting seemed an “interesting” way.
Aside from Lavallee and Daigle, the other three plan to remain on until it isn’t fun anymore.
“It’s a pseudo-family,” said Pesonen. “It’s good to be here with the guys.”
The public is invited to come out Saturday, March 10 to fire station three for an open house between 1 and 4 p.m.