Volunteer fire fighters across the province fight flames and frigid temperatures

·2 min read

The emergency call came in around midnight on Feb. 5: a house fire with occupants on the Fishing Lake First Nation.

It was –39 C outside.

Harold Narfason is chief of the Wadena Volunteer Department, a post he's held for more than three decades.

Narfason's first thought was not about getting volunteers to the fire.

It was about first getting them out of their yards.

"We all had to basically go out, some of us have vehicles outside, some in heated garages," he said Monday.

"The ones outside, the vehicles aren't willing to co-operate, drive as best as they should."

The Wadena department is one of 162 departments across the province registered with the Saskatchewan Volunteer Firefighters Association.

Wadena Volunteer Fire Department/Facebook
Wadena Volunteer Fire Department/Facebook

Narfason said he can talk to new volunteers about the challenges of working in the weather but, in the end, there is no substitute for a live fire.

"You just have to do," he said.

"The ones closest to the fire will stay warm. But those a little further back ...."

Narfason said local people will often help with warming stations, while the RCMP and paramedics stay on scene, "so it's a real team effort."

Narfason spent most of the night at the fire. He said that he'll dress in layers, bringing along a spare set of wool socks and a bunny hug. There have been all sorts of positive advances in material and clothing since he started but there are aspects of the old days that he misses.

"If you go back to some of the old equipment, they used to use woolen mitts and the wool had very little warming factor," he said.

"But once you soaked them in water, they froze over and they were the warmest thing you could get."