TIZZARD'S HARBOUR, N.L. - The small central Newfoundland outport of Tizzard’s Harbour, with just over 50 people, is working to bring its volunteer fire department up to a new standard.
The Tizzard’s Harbour Volunteer Fire Department is putting in place several initiatives to improve and grow its operation.
The effort is largely spearheaded by Fire Chief Steve Burt, a native of Tizzard’s Harbour who returned home after many years working on the mainland, in both fire departments and in emergency response.
Burt was elected fire chief during a recent restructuring of the department. After completing new documentation and getting it approved by the provincial government, the department also has two newly elected captains, one stationed in Tizzard’s Harbour and one in neighbouring Moreton’s Harbour.
Burt says if there ever happens to be two fires they must attend to, these captains would give them a supervising presence for both.
“For these firefighters it’s their first time holding positions as officers,” he said. “The idea is that these will be crew supervisors.”
Mutual aid agreement
The department currently has 15 members, and in the past has often battled fires outside of Tizzard’s Harbour, in the communities of Moreton’s Harbour, Bridgeport and Valley Pond.
But during this recent period of review and restructuring, department member and chair of the local service district Hayward Harris says they discovered this wasn’t the intended protocol.
“For quite some time the Tizzard’s Habour fire department would respond to calls in these three towns,” said Harris. “In the past year we’ve been reviewing the bylaws and looking into things, and we realized that those towns were actually collecting money from residents to receive fire protection services from Summerford. This was unbeknownst to us.
“We don’t mind helping those communities, but legally and technically, we shouldn’t have been doing it.”
With this coming to light, the department wrote a letter to the residents of these three communities to let them know it’s Summerford’s department that must be called in the event of a fire.
After contacting the Town of Summerford on the matter, they began work on a mutual aid agreement.
“When we sign that in place, then if Summerford is called for a fire and they need additional hands or if it’s a fire that we can get to quicker, then we can be contacted and address the fire,” Harris said. “We’re hoping they will come to sign it, it’s all about offering people better protection for their homes.”
This mutual aid agreement would also open the doors for more recruitment.
“I like the idea of having a bigger pool of people to draw from for volunteers,” Burt said. “I do know there are people in Valley Pond and Bridgeport that might be interested in joining. But if we were to do a recruitment program now, they might hesitate if Tizzard’s Harbour cannot respond to those areas.”
Most recently, the department has completed first aid training. It has also signed up for standard training modules with the International Fire Service Training Association.
Given his own background in emergency response, Burt says he would like to see future efforts around medical response and offensive firefighting.
“From an aging community perspective, I’m a believer that we need, at some point, to get to medical,” he said. “[Offensive firefighting] is something still in my mind. From my view a fully functioning department needs to get to an offensive standard.
“But in a community of 50 people without apartment buildings or office buildings, the houses here are much smaller. When you get to search patterns for offensive firefighting you’re dealing with much more intricate homes than we have.”
According to Harris and Burt, they are also looking at more immediate future efforts around fire prevention and doing a review of the equipment they currently have.
With such a small population, the department organizes continual fundraising efforts to help keep their services afloat. Having 15 of its 50 residents on the team, and the willingness of locals to support the department financially, Harris says the community spirit of Tizzard’s Harbour is their best resource.
“This town and the pride people have in it – that’s a phenomenal thing, you can’t underestimate that,” he said.
As they continue to grow their volunteer department to a standard closer to those found in major cities, Burt agrees the support of the area is vital.
“If we have one water leak a year, you can guarantee everyone is out there with their shovel and their rake,” Burt said. “That same spirit is carried over into the work we do with the department.”