© Guardian photo by Brian McInnis
District Deputy Chief Gerard McMahon and new Station 2 firefighter Allana Monkley promote Fire Safety Week in Prince Edward Island.
Committed, dedicated, courageous.
These are only a few words used to describe what it means to be a firefighter.
Firefighting, to many, is an admirable job, fit for the courageous and dedicated individuals of communities.
They risk their lives, not for the spotlight but to ensure the safety and well-being of the people they’ve sworn to serve.
All 38 firefighters at Station 2 in Charlottetown are volunteers with a willing spirit to help their city.
For district deputy Gerard McMahon, family has always been a factor in his decision to join the force more than 30 years ago.
“My father was a fire chief in Kinkora. I always saw him rushing off to help people so I decided to join,” McMahon said.
Whether it’s 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., firefighters are expected to stop whatever they’re doing to lend a hand. Commitment has become a large component when searching through applications for potential firefighters, more so than anything else. As a result, more time is dedicated to training and education than in years past.
“When I joined, it was come on down to the fire hall, here’s your pager and we’ll teach you how to do this stuff,” said McMahon.
Balancing work, family and pleasure isn’t easy, let alone adding firefighting.
Still, it’s encouraging for longtime firefighter McMahon to see people offering their services despite other commitments.
However, McMahon isn’t shocked when volunteers move on from the department either.
“People are busy. Over the last few years there seems to be more turnover,” McMahon said.
Allana Monkley, a rookie volunteer firefighter, has been working endlessly to be part of the firefighting family and finally got her opportunity in July.
“It was something I was always interested in. The excitement and the passion for helping others drove me,” she said.
The Humane Society employee saw firefighting as a challenge and something she needed to prove to herself.
“I wanted to see if I could do it because there is a lot of strength involved in it. I’m small but I’m mighty,” Monkley said.
Fighting fires is no easy task, as many firefighters would say. They’re taught to control their emotions and contain their nerves, but as humans it’s simply not that easy.
“Once that pager goes off, you stop breathing for a moment, you’re nervous, but then you realize you have a job to do,” Monkley said.
Fair or not, firefighting has often been considered a man’s job, said Monkley.
But she’s hoping to change the stereotype, encouraging anyone and everyone to join the team.
McMahon couldn’t agree more.
“It’s good that people are willing to join. Everyone brings something different to the
Firefighting is synonymous with teamwork and family. Without a team, nothing gets accomplished.
“We’re a team of people, you’re not there by yourself. It doesn’t matter who you are, it takes all of us to put the fire out,” McMahon said.
“The guys are fantastic. It’s a big family and everyone’s been welcoming,” Monkley added.
The Charlottetown Fire Department is accepting applications for volunteer firefighters until Oct. 18.