Long-time Volunteer Firefighter Calls It a Career

by Jeremy Broadfield of the Cochrane Eagle

After 30 years of service, Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES) Capt. Dave McPherson has hung up his helmet for the last time.  “I decided that 30 years was a good career,” said McPherson, a resident of the townsite.

RMES deputy chief Rob Evans said that to volunteer for that long is something special.  “Giving that much time and effort to the department, it just means the world to the community,” he said.“It’s sad to see Dave go and a lot of knowledge goes with him,” Evans added.

McPherson joined RMES in 1981 after he moved to the community while working for Alberta Government Telephones where he did switching maintenance and later database management.

After joining RMES, McPherson literally helped to build the department.  He remembers working with fire chief Ed Bowen to build some of the original fire trucks.  “Fundraising was just about non-existent back then, so we bid on decommissioned trucks and rebuilt them in house,” said McPherson.

The biggest project was building the department’s second engine, known as the Squirt, which features a 50-foot boom. It was constructed from parts of several decommissioned trucks purchased by the department.  “I spent most of the winter of ’97 here tearing the truck apart,” he said.  McPherson thinks that both he and Bowen spent around 1,500 hours each working to build the Squirt.

After spending all that time building it McPherson said they had the misfortune of having a small electrical fire burn out some of the truck’s wiring.  “I spent about three weeks laying on my back and I had to splice in about six feet of wiring underneath it to get the truck running again,” said McPherson, laughing.

In addition to all the time he spent building the fire trucks, he also spent a lot of time responding to emergencies.  “I went on probably 95-99 per cent of the calls at that time,” he said.

McPherson could almost run down to the hall faster than he could jump in his car and drive down.  One call that stands out in his memory was when a house on his cul-de-sac burnt to the ground on a freezing cold, snowy, night in November 1997.  “I got a call 8 o’clock at night and they said your neighbour’s house is on fire,” said McPherson, “I rolled up my garage door and they were right.”

The cold weather made fighting that fire difficult, initially the fire hydrants were frozen.  “At about that time I was getting a little more urgent on my messages over the radio to get the water tanker down here, we’ve got problems with water,” he said.  McPherson ended up staying up all night at that scene.

In the morning a neighbour made him breakfast and he started digging the hose lines out from under the snow.  “We had probably 2,000 feet of fire hose laying under three feet of snow…it was one of the heaviest snowfalls we’ve ever had,” he said.

Despite the hardships that come with the job, McPherson never really considered retirement until after he turned 65. McPherson turns 67 in May.  “My goal was to get the 30 years,” he said.

 

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