TRURO – Alex Johnson was a little kid when he realized he wanted to be a firefighter.
It was in his blood and all around him – his grandfather, his father, his uncle, all firefighters. Now a firefighter in Bible Hill, Johnson looked around on Saturday and saw a lot of himself in the young kids at the second annual Firefighters Day at Colchester Legion Stadium.
“It’s great to see all these kids out here,” he said. “It reminds me a lot of myself when I was that age, for sure.”
Johnson was one of many firefighters from Bible Hill, Valley-Kemptown and Truro to attend the event, which featured a barbeque, firefighting displays and a skills competition – which the young firefighter won by a long shot.
Each competitor in the timed skills event had to crawl through a window, drag a mannequin across the pavement, scurry his or her way through a tangle of wires before fitting through a tight opening to cross the finish line. While most competitors were well over a minute, Johnson finished in 30 seconds.
“It was a little luck and a lot of training,” he said. “This is what we do, so it’s a great chance to show off all the training and practice we go through.”
The event was also a good chance for members of each brigade to get to know one another. After Truro firefighter Skyler Blackie went through the course, Johnson was first in line to give a high-five and congratulations.
"It's good to see these guys away from work and get to know them a bit better," Johnson said. "Then when we see each other at a fire, we're that much more comfortable knowing who has our backs."
For Darlene MacKenzie of the Valley-Kemptown brigade, the day was a chance to show the kids what it’s all about.
“It’s great to have all the children out here so they can meet the people who are here to help them,” she said. “It’s important to grow up knowing the world isn’t full of scary strangers, but actually a lot of people who are looking out for you.”
Several children ran around the parking lot, where the event was set up, climbing into trucks, going high up in the buckets, or taking rides around on the fire brigade’s golf cart. Landon Adshade, son of a Valley-Kemptown firefighter, got his turn to go up in the passenger seat of a truck and sound the horn.
“He’s all ready to be a fireman,” his father, Chris, said. “All that’s left to do is wait until he’s old enough.”
While it was a fun day aimed at showing the community the faces behind the breathing masks, a stark reminder of the importance of a firefighter’s job is came later in the day.
Moments after one firefighter finished the skills course, another ran to a nearby truck and put his head in the door to hear a call coming over the scanner. Moments later, pagers went off and a pair of firefighters sprinted to the truck and took off.
“It just goes to show how urgent the job is,” said Truro firefighter Mike Mabey. “The second you get a call, you have to be in that mode.”
Mabey and his fellow Truro crew then quickly readied a second truck, lowering the ladder and taking down the stabilizers, should they need to go.
“We’re here to show the people what exactly it is we do,” Mabey said. “There’s no better display than the real thing.”