More than a fire department

Aaron
Aaron Beswick
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Celebrating 20 years of community service

"The breaks are gone ... hold on," yelled Clarence Hedderson. Curtis Blake held on. "She just didn't slow down," Blake recalled.

The Noddy Bay, Straitsview, Hay Cove and L'Anse aux Meadows (NSHL) Volunteer Fire Department's only pumper kept going right through the T-intersection and out into the cove.

Noddy Bay -

"The breaks are gone ... hold on," yelled Clarence Hedderson. Curtis Blake held on. "She just didn't slow down," Blake recalled.

The Noddy Bay, Straitsview, Hay Cove and L'Anse aux Meadows (NSHL) Volunteer Fire Department's only pumper kept going right through the T-intersection and out into the cove.

Dennis Hedderson, who was hanging onto the back of the fire truck with Blake, went flying.

"But I held on, don't know why. The boys coming behind said I was latched on with two hands, legs straight out, flying around."

The truck rolled three times. When he came to on the ground, Blake saw a full length crack in his helmet.

"Yes b'y, we were lucky that time. Clarence and I spent a week in hospital, no broken bones, but we were bruised up inside."

Last Wednesday the NSHL volunteer fire department was celebrating its 20th birthday, swapping stories of fires, Christmas parades and good times ... like the going away party they threw for Alf Mitchell. After an evening of merriment Mitchell passed out - so the crowd at the hall 'molasses and feathered' him, wrapped him up in a stretcher and carried him up the road to his house.

"Alf was with me when the Parks Canada building caught fire," Denley Hedderson said. "We went in with the air tanks on, had only had a bit of training on them in St. Anthony. But we all managed to save that one."

While a volunteer fire department's purpose is obvious, by being a locally run and financed organization, it also brings the communities it covers together. Fundraisers for the department include card games each Saturday, darts on Sundays at Skipper Hots Lounge, bingo on Tuesdays and yearly events like the Winter Carnival Sports Day, cold plate suppers and a 50/50 draw. The firettes and firefighters are also responsible for one of the peninsula's little known jewels - the NSHL Christmas parade. The department leads a caravan through Quirpon, Noddy Bay, Straitsview, Hay Cove and L'Anse aux Meadows, delivering fruit plates to the homes of seniors. The caravan heads up each lane spreading candy and cheer, honking vehicles join the parade until it ends up at the fire hall for a party.

"We're 100 per cent volunteer with no government funding and no municipality - we do it all ourselves," training officer Damien Bartlett said. "It's good and brings people together. The firettes, too, are key to our survival."

While most of this province's volunteer fire departments are struggling with aging membership, of the NSHL's department's 14 active firefighters, nine are under 30 years old.

"There aren't many young people around, but we've pretty well got them all," Bartlett said, himself just 26 years old. "It's good to see the next generation getting involved."

Plans for the future include new equipment and more training.

Organizations: Volunteer Fire Department, Parks Canada

Geographic location: Noddy Bay, L'Anse, St. Anthony

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