The tones sounded and Windsor firefighter Brandon Dumouchelle rushed to get his gear on. He knew the call could result in being away for hours on end. He knew he could be in store for an afternoon and evening of tedious, thankless work.
But, like so many volunteers in this region, he answered the call — and missed his daughter's fourth birthday.
He mentioned this, in passing, as he worked with the Windsor Fire Department as they tried to save the historic building that once housed the Edgehill School for Girls.
Volunteer firefighters miss out on so many special moments, events and anniversaries. They give their time, willingly, to help others in need. They do so, time after time. It could be Christmas morning. If there's an emergency, they fly out the door, heading to the unknown.
On Sept. 1, when the lives of the residents of 790 King St. were thrown into chaos, volunteer firefighters from at least a dozen stations were mobilizing. They were cancelling their plans. They were leaving work — a paying job — so that they could help others.
It's estimated between 60-70 firefighters were on scene, with an additional 110-120 firefighters providing back-fill for the stations who sent men and women to Windsor.
When disaster strikes, these volunteers are there to help, regardless of the day, regardless of the hour.
For a call that began at 2:40 p.m., some firefighters didn't get home until the wee morning hours — and some stayed until after sunrise. Many of them caught a few hours sleep and headed into work.
Although the firefighters couldn't save the main structure — it was deemed a lost cause early on — they did keep the fire from spreading and destroying the adjoining units, and they saved some pets in the process.
It was a good knockdown. It was a well-coordinated effort. It showed teamwork under stressful conditions. It showed what can be accomplished by working together.
They train hard all year round in the hopes that they won't have to put what they learned into practice. They're at the ready 24/7.
It would be very difficult to try to put a price tag on what our volunteer firefighters give us. It's more than just saving property and lives. They give us a sense of security and peace of mind. They're everyday heroes — and really deserve a big thank you.