GRAND FALLS-WINDSOR, NL – On Oct. 24, 1972, the Grand Falls-Windsor Fire Department recruited a young member who was just 17 years old at the time.
Little did they know this dedicated young man would stick around as a volunteer firefighter with the town of Grand Falls-Windsor for the next 45 years.
Dave Byrne just celebrated his 45th anniversary with the Grand Falls-Windsor Fire Department and was recognized for his long-standing efforts during the 27th annual Firefighters’ Ball Oct. 28.
Byrne told the Advertiser the most rewarding aspect of being a firefighter is helping people in their time of need.
“Your adrenaline runs, and you forget everything else,” he said. “You’re running in when everyone else is running away. It gives you a feeling of achievement… being able to help people gives you that special little feeling.”
The job requirements for a volunteer firefighter include spending countless hours and sometimes days away from your family, and not just fighting fires and saving peoples’ homes. Firefighters help people stuck in snowstorms, assist ambulances, and attend roadside vehicle collisions, sometimes using extraction equipment to get people out.
As a firefighter, you must put the needs of your community and neighbors ahead of your own, Byrne explained.
“It’s a different adrenaline rush when you’re on the front lines and helping people – if you don’t get that rush and (other things are more important) you’re not designed for this,” said Byrne.
His family has been home alone during storms while he was out helping other families – they would have to call for assistance just like anyone else, he said.
“If I was selfish I would have said I can’t come to those calls, I have my own family at home. You put your own family basically in line with everybody else that needs help.
“If 40 men said ‘listen, I’ve got to take care of my family first,’ then there’s no one to go out and take care of anybody else’s family,” Byrne said.
Over his 45 years with the fire department Byrne has seen a lot of major fires and rescues. He was only in the fire department for a year when he witnessed two fatalities at a fire.
“I was only 18 years old and I hardly knew what death was … that sticks in my mind as probably one of the first things that I remember,” he said.
Thankfully for Byrne, he only relives certain memories when he is talking about them and does not suffer post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which he sees is rampant amongst first responders.
“It’s only when you’re talking about it that you actually see it – other than that, it’s put into this little vault, I suppose. Some people can put the lock on the vault and some people can’t… not to say I’ll never be affected but up until now it hasn’t.
“I’ve known firefighters who have seen things that have ended their careers. I’ve have no reoccurrence of dreams about [events] so hopefully they’re just locked away,” he added.
“Your adrenaline runs, and you forget everything else. You’re running in when everyone else is running away. It gives you a feeling of achievement… being able to help people gives you that special little feeling.
- Firefighter Dave Byrne
Byrne recently retired from his 30-year career with the Canada Revenue Agency, but he has no plans to retire from the fire department just yet.
“The key is when the alarm goes off and you still get that butterfly feeling, you’re still there,” said Byrne.