The fire crews

Fire crews did their job day after day without complaint. Hot. Cold. Rain. Sometimes even in snow—although there was no snow on Dryden-18. They did their jobs in swamps, on dry ground, around lakeshores, along rivers—wherever they could set up a Mark III pump and get it to suck water.

One of the better line camps on Dryden-18

Some of the line camps were in prime locations. Others, not so much. If you've ever been a fire crew member, you'll know exactly what I mean.

In many cases I was the taxi driver that got to spot them where they chose to set up the pump. I recall getting into shore as close as I could, holding power-on. The crewman stepped out onto the skid and then into the water. When he was handed the Mark III, he promptly sunk up to his chin. Hoisting the pump overhead, he calmly walked to shore.

Another time I was sent to pick up a Crew Leader who wanted to take a look at his line. When I pulled up, he was up to his ass in water, crouched in a swamp. He just grinned up at me, opened the door and climbed in. That was the first time I ever saw the man. He was from the base at Macdiarmid on Lake Nipigon in the North Central Region. For many years following that introduction, I worked with him—and many others—while flying on fires and fire contracts in Ontario. I’ve since forgotten his name (thanks to someone who reminded me–it was Ed Hyland), but we used to occasionally joke about our introduction.

Over the years I worked with many hundreds of fire crews in Ontario. They were all professional, trained and extremely proficient at their jobs. As an aviator, when I encountered an Ontario fire crew member, I knew he or she was well-trained, safe and efficient when working with aircraft of any type. Each and every one of them worked hard in a difficult and dangerous occupation.

They also had a tremendous sense of humour, and sometimes they played hard too. You know who you are.

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