By Stephen Dafoe
Morinville – Fire Chief Ron Cust rolled up, lights and siren activated, to the doors of Smith Music in Morinville Wednesday night. But there was no emergency. The chief had come to pick up his replacement for the evening – eleven-year-old Smith Music student Emily Short.
Short was one of several lucky bidders in a fundraising auction held by Smith Music and the Morinville Fire Department over the Father’s Day weekend to raise money for Sonny Davis’ Marathon of Freedom, an event currently underway and raising money for muscular dystrophy.
As the first Fire Chief for a Day, Short was the first to don a brand new firefighter suit made specifically for someone her size, protective garments necessary for her evening of inspecting Morinville’s firefighters and leading them through their weekly training session. Short also got the opportunity to turn a fire hydrant on and work with a fire hose.
“It was pretty cool,” Short said of her opportunity to be Morinville’s fire chief. “My mom was saying to me how cool it would be to go in the fire truck and get to do the hose and be in a giant fire suit with the helmet and everything,” Short said. “So my mom and I decided that we’d try for it.”
Dressed in the same gear professional firefighters where, Short said she got a better appreciation for what real firefighters experience.
“It’s feels kind of really hot, but I didn’t expect it to be this heavy,” Short said, noting that it felt much heavier than a winter coat. “There’s a lot of padding, so it make sit kind of soft. It’s kind of hard to move your legs in.”
But if short thought the firefighter clothing was heavy and awkward just standing around, her opportunity to wear it in training really put things in perspective. Dressed in helmet, pants and jacket, Short had to navigate a series of cages met to replicate some of the tightly confined areas firefighters often have to crawl through, areas full of electrical wires and other cables.
“The first part you just kind of had to go in, and once you got to the wires, it felt like you were in a giant spider web and you had to find a way out,” Short. “You got tangled up a little bit and it was kind of hard to get out.”
Short said the experience gives her a new appreciation for just how difficult and dangerous it is to be a firefighter.
For Morinville Fire Chief Ron Cust, Short’s experience is one of the things he hoped to achieve with the Fire Chief for a Day initiative in addition to raising money for Sonny Davis, a campaign that both Smith Music and the Morinville Fire Department have been behind since the beginning.
“We’ve done it in the past, but this time in partnership with Marathon of Freedom and Smith Music,” Cust said. “It made sense to partner with them to provide something like this to get the kids engaged. We’ve got our student training program that engages those a little older, but this allows us to engage those people that may not be that familiar with our fire operation and give them a chance to come into our station and experience what it’s like to be a fire fighter or command the members that I do for a day.”
Several other winners of the Fire Chief for a Day auction are set to don the chief’s helmet in coming weeks.