Meet Lyonel Doherty a local volunteer with the Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department. Lyonel shares his story and what to expect when volunteering including "life-long friends".
I remember watching members of the Okanagan Falls Volunteer Fire Department practice every Wednesday night in our small community. I marveled at their expertise and knowledge. These were the guys who ran towards danger when everyone else ran away from it. I never thought that one day I would join this team of dedicated individuals. I never thought I would have the fortitude to be one of these guys. Well, here I am, 10 years later and still a member.
I recall one firefighter, now a captain, who encouraged me to join. I was unsure because I knew it was a huge commitment. But I saw what these men were doing and I soon wanted to be a part of it. The more I realized how I was able to help people in their time of need, the more I strived to be a better firefighter. The more I learned, the more confident I became. I was no longer afraid of the responsibility and commitment; it was a "new" part of me. It was my duty, and I wasn't alone.
Being a firefighter has given me self-worth. It has given me pride, something I didn't have a lot of before. My children look up to me and understand that whenever that pager goes off, I'm out the door within seconds, regardless of what time it is. Being able to help people in an emergency is truly rewarding, knowing that they count on me for their well-being.
I know this sounds cliché, but it's true - walking into the meeting room at the fire hall is like walking into an old friend's house. I belong there. I'm expected there. They're a great bunch of guys who accept you at face value, and who are always your friend. I watch their back and they watch mine.
I recall one structure fire when we were on scene for 17 hours. The officers and other members kept checking on my health to ensure I was fit to continue. Even as I approach my eleventh year on the squad, my safety is always their concern. But as serious as we are about our jobs, there's always time for humour. As Gordon Lightfoot once sang . . . "and the laughter came too easy for life to pass me by."
I would have to say the best thing about joining the fire department is the camaraderie. It's there in spades. This is what I would tell a prospective volunteer. Where else can you make this many friends so quickly? And life-long friends at that.
Are you ready to join British Columbia's emergency volunteer lifeline? Support National Volunteer Week 2012. Visit EmergencyInfoBC to learn more.