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“Low fire team” more than just firefighters

May 22nd,2024 | Opinion

Pineview Restaurant

Intense flames consume Low’s Pineview Restaurant on May 7. Photo: Kathleen Wilson

When firefighters in Low aren’t fighting fires, they can usually be found doing something to make their community better. 

You see them everywhere: at local fundraisers, baseball tournaments, hockey games, council meetings and raging fires that destroy homes, farms and institutional businesses – the loss of which changes the face of Low. 

But the hard working crew inside the Low Fire Hall is more than just volunteer firefighters – they are volunteer community builders. 

Anyone who has ever been to a Paugan Falls Rapids home game knows just how hard these people work – people like Maureen Rice; her daughter, Ellen Rice-Hogan; Ghyslain Robert; and Low’s esteemed chief, Michel Lemieux, among many others. Most folks may not know that, when these first responders attend the Rapids games, they aren’t on the books; they aren’t getting paid for their hours spent there. Rice and Rice-Hogan were at every game this past inaugural season, and it’s not as if they were just eating popcorn and watching good hockey. Fans may remember two consecutive playoff games where players from the opposing teams sustained severe injuries: one suffered a broken neck, the other a broken leg, and Low firefighters were there to help. When a Bytown Royals player crashed head-first into the boards at full speed during a playoff game, Rice, Rice-Hogan and several fellow responders were on the ice immediately, helping to stabilize the player until an ambulance arrived. It took 45 minutes, and firefighters kept the players, officials, coaches and the crowd calm. A similar injury happened the following weekend – and those same firefighters were there to help – every second of it volunteer time. 

This isn’t anything new. Anyone who knows the people who make up Low’s fire department can attest to just how impactful they are in making their community a better place to live. When the Pineview Restaurant was destroyed by flames on May 7, Low firefighters didn’t just put out the blaze and go home. Rice-Hogan and several other firefighters visited nearby resident Kathleen Wilson and assured her young autistic daughter Clara that the thick black smoke from the Pineview wasn’t in her home. They took this extra time out of their day because they know how important it is for young kids to feel confident in their first responders. Wilson said she was impressed with how Rice-Hogan approached the situation so as not to scare her daughter with all her firefighting gear on.

Readers may also remember last summer when  Low fireman Tommy Townsend was arrested in Wakefield after a passerby called police to say that a man was roaming the village with a knife. Townsend, an arborist by trade, had a sheathed knife on his person. He was with fellow firefighters from Low, who had travelled to Wakefield on their day off to look for a missing Low man. (The missing person was later found safe and sound. )

Rice and Robert are also municipal councillors, and although they get paid for their roles on council – an $8,000 salary – it isn’t much considering the amount of work and sometimes abuse they take from a handful of vocal residents. 

Not to mention that, every time anyone from the Low Fire department heads out to fight a fire, they are directly putting their lives in danger – for a fraction of the salary that full-time city firefighters get. This sacrifice should not go unnoticed.

The next time you see a Low firefighter at a game, a public meeting or a council meeting, thank them. And the next time you see them holding their boots out for donations – open up that wallet. You never know when you’ll need Low firefighters to be your heroes. 

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Support feisty, independent journalism.

 

At the Low Down, we are passionate about delivering quality local news to Gatineau Hills residents. But passion alone cannot pay the bills.

To help meet the demands of inflation and the costs of producing fact-based local news, we have introduced new pricing options. Our goal is to meet readers where they’re at, and keep our newspaper as affordable as possible.

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