Having first joined the brigade on Aug. 7, 1977, when he was just 19-years-old, the now 59-year-old Harbour Grace resident says his journey as a firefighter is one that’s shaped his entire life – and one he isn’t ready to finish anytime soon.
Following in the footsteps of his father, as well as his grandfather on his mother’s side, Regular says being a firefighter is in his blood at this point, and its become a passion over the years, albeit a stressful one at times.
With 40 years under his belt, Regular has been on-call for the brigade for a total of 14,600 days, or 350,400 hours. With a 180-year-old brigade, Regular is the first in the brigade’s history to reach the 40-year mark, and told The Compass that although there have been rough days and nights, he doesn’t regret a second of it.
“Now, we’ve got so much equipment and other things available through the brigade, that we’re doing so much more than just fighting fires,” explained Regular. “We’ve got a cold water rescue team, the Jaws of Life, and we’re going out and responding to calls not just in Harbour Grace, but in other communities as well. It’s a big responsibility, but it’s all worth it at the end of the day.”
Regular also explained to The Compass that spending so much time as a volunteer firefighter can take a toll on one’s mental health, noting in particular the personal connection he sometimes has to those who are affected by fires he’s had to respond to in the past.
“It’s a small town, and it seems like everyone knows each other for the most part,” Regular explained. “It’s not like we’re in a big city where you don’t know half the people you see. I’ve been at scenes and saw people I’m very close with suffering because of a fire.
“Not only that, but not every call we respond to is going to be successful. Like anything, I suppose, there’s going to be times when things don’t go the way you planned. It definitely takes a toll on you over the years.”
Regular added that although it was difficult to pinpoint specific incidents that were particularly tough throughout his career, he said even smaller fires eventually start to take a toll, noting that every fire and every call gets ingrained into one’s memory.
“Just driving down the road sometimes can be hard on you, you know? Maybe you’ll pass by a house where you saw someone die, or something like that, and that can be especially hard sometimes,” Regular said.
Regular also noted that the number of firefighters over the years has seen a decrease, and although he’d like to see the numbers grow again, he doesn’t think it has to do with a lack of interest.
Instead, Regular feels as though the younger generation simply doesn’t have the time to dedicate to the job, mentioning the amount of people leaving the province, or even the community, for work on a daily or weekly basis.
“I’m sure that if some of these people were able to work within their own communities, we’d see a lot more people joining. It’s a generational thing, and the world is changing. People are travelling a lot more, and some just don’t live a lifestyle that fits in with being a volunteer firefighter,” Regular said. He also added, however, that if anyone does have the chance to join, he’d be happy to see some new faces.
Despite the traumatic scenes and long nights, Regular said the opportunity to change people’s lives, save people from the brink of death, and assist people in dangerous situations makes it all worth it, and that those are the reasons he’s been able to stick with it over the past 40 years.
“I still got the fire in me belly,” Regular said with a chuckle. “I got no plans to let go of it yet. Being able to help so many people, make such a big difference to people you know, and even the ones you don’t know. Having such a big impact on the community really makes it all worth it.”