Although Quesnel has had a fire department since 1910 under the direction of the Board of Trade, it wasn’t until 1942 that the Quesnel Volunteer Fire Fighters Association was formed with such community notables as Chuck Beath and Bob Hendry. This association assumed responsibility for the volunteers, hiring paid staff, acquiring equipment and maintaining the high standards of the fire department.
Since that time 54 members of the association have died.
Retired captain Patrick Meyers said these members had 1,500 years as a combined total of volunteer service.
“And that’s just for the City of Quesnel,” he said.
“We have many more years of service through the regional fire departments in Kersley, Bouchie Lake, Ten Mile Lake, Barlow Creek and West Fraser.”
When Bob Hendry died in 2008, he was the last remaining founding member of the QVFFA.
“There are many plaques, tributes and monuments for other contributions to the community by various people, but I realized there’s no memorial to those who gave so many years of volunteer service through the firefighters’ association,” Meyers said.
And so was born the Quesnel and area Firefighters’ Monument Appeal.
Meyers said they are looking to the community to help raise the $132,000 needed to build the monument in LeBourdais Park. Permission from the city has already been granted for one of three possible locations and a pledge for site preparation work.
All six local fire departments are committed to seeing this monument erected and the site will contain the names of deceased volunteer members from all departments.
“The design was conceived locally and the committee, which is made up of members of all six departments, is committed to have local trades and suppliers from design to completion. Now that the city is on board we offer the same opportunity to the CRD to come forward to show their appreciation to the volunteer firefighters and make their contribution.”
However, Meyers knows how important the individual, business and industry donations are going to be for this project.
“There’s a common thread in any volunteer fire department. These volunteers help their friends and neighbours on the worst day of their lives. Each volunteer is more than a firefighter, they’re fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, children and members of the community. However, when
that fire alarm goes – they step out of their everyday life and put their life on the line for someone in the community.”
Meyers added many of the volunteers are also first responders, they manage accident scenes and their training is universal, equal in all six departments.
Of the 42 active members of the Quesnel Fire Department, only four are paid staff. However, Meyers said in the future fire departments will have all firefighters paid.
“It’s estimated volunteer firefighters save the City of Quesnel in excess of $2 million and more than $1 billion worth of property was saved by the Quesnel Fire department last year as well.”
He was proud to say Quesnel Fire Department has the distinction of never having lost a member at the scene.
“And that’s due to good training and good equipment. But we have had members die of occupational-related diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke.”
The firefighter memorial monument is intended to evoke reflection and emotion in a dignified manner with the simple function of hosting individuals or ceremonial assemblies. Aesthetically restrained and austere, the monument will act as a permanent landmark honouring past members of the six fire departments. The platform will be 36 feet by 25 feet by 1 foot of granite/polished concrete, with flagpoles, a podium, railings, tower, mounted display wall of names and a bench in front to read the names. The monument will be wheelchair-accessible.
With a donation of more than $5,000 the donors name will be engraved on the monument. Names of the donors between $l,000 and $5,000 will be posted on an honour board for a period of time and those donating less than $1,000 will have their names published in the local newspaper, requests of anonymity will be honoured.
“The time is now. We’d like to
break ground by June 2012,” Meyers said.
Firefighters are recognized around the world for the selfless job they perform whenever they’re called.
The six departments of volunteer firefighters are now calling on the public in their time of need.
Donations can be made out to QVFD Association Historical Society and a receipt will be mailed out as soon as possible. Donations may also be left with any firefighter, dropped off at Firehall #1 (downtown Quesnel) between 8 a.m. and noon, or call 250-747-2118 to arrange a pickup. Donations may also be mailed to QVFD, 310 Kinchant St., Quesnel, B.C. V2J 2R4.