Paul Maynard says he could write a book about his 23 years as a volunteer firefighter in Hantsport and Kentville.
But that may have to wait until he retires.
Maynard, a former fire chief with the Hantsport Fire Department who now holds the rank of captain, juggles the demands of the fire service with a full-time job as a logistics co-ordinator with EHS Medical First Response and family life.
“I have an incredibly supportive family that understands the responsibility of being a firefighter, which makes it much less stressful on the home front,” he said in a recent e-mail exchange.
In the line of duty, however, things tend to get a bit stressful — especially in a community where the faces of those in distress are familiar.
“A second challenge is dealing with situations that the average person would never witness,” said Maynard. “We truly see people in the worst moments of their lives and we are tasked to try and mitigate these situations to the best of our ability. In a small community, everyone knows everyone, so it can be helpful in many situations, but also can be a huge challenge in certain circumstances.”
Maynard, who transferred to Hantsport from Kentville in 2003, is one of 180 volunteer firefighters across Canada to receive a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal this year. Minister of State Gordon O’Connor presented Maynard with the award at the annual general meeting of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Service Association in Ottawa.
In years past, he has been awarded the Anne Longley Memorial Service Medal in Kings County for 15 years’ service, the Federal Exemplary Service Medal for the Fire Service at 20 years and a Nova Scotia Democracy 250 medal in 2008.
The third generation firefighter takes pride in knowing he has the ability to assist in an emergency situation.
“Whether it is at a fire, motor vehicle collision, medical emergency or a flooded basement, I believe people appreciate the fact that there is a group of dedicated volunteers in their community that will help them to the best of their ability in some very difficult situations.”
“We truly see people in the worst moments of their lives and we are tasked to try and mitigate these situations to the best of our ability. In a small community, everyone knows everyone, so it can be helpful in many situations, but also can be a huge challenge in certain circumstances.” - Paul Maynard
He admits there have been a few close calls in the line of duty, but teamwork and training has always helped him find his way home.
He remembers one standout incident where his team was caught by surprise while battling a structure fire on Webster Street in Kentville in 1997.
“I was on the first hose line into the building and went to the second floor of the building. We didn’t realize that the fire had been burning for hours in the basement area and we were literally in a huge furnace,” he recalled.
“We escaped the fire as it consumed the building and many of my colleagues recall me rolling down the stairs from the second floor with the leather on my helmet burning as I reached the ground floor.”
Maynard, a training officer, was appointed to a committee formed by the provincial Office of the Fire Marshall to develop a strategic plan that will help fire departments in Nova Scotia recruit, and retain, volunteers.
“We have it very good in the Annapolis Valley; however in other areas of the province, fire departments struggle greatly with financing, training and recruitment of volunteers.”
He also draws on his extensive experience in the field to organize training sessions within his home department.
“I believe we all have a duty to pass along the knowledge and skills our younger generation will need to sustain and grow the fire service into the future.”
Maynard says camaraderie and excitement are guarantees in the fire service, no matter where a volunteer is stationed.
“I have often said that no matter where I travelled in Nova Scotia, if I needed something, I was always confident that a fellow firefighter in that community could help me out.”