Monday, July 09, 2007

Time doesn't always heal

It's funny how time heals all wounds but like many healed wounds a scar will remain. It doesn't seem like ten years have passed already but it's also no surprise that time has a habit of getting away from us. Ten years ago today I remember driving home after a later shift than usual to see a massive stain in the sky. I remember thinking to myself that something was seriously ablaze but like most people, including most of the rescue services people that attended to the fire, had no idea what was truly happening. Like many truly horrific things is started with a simple and thoughtless act. In a ragged old building housing a stockpile of materials for a plastics recycling company, an 8 year old started a little fire to see it burn. He had no intention of triggering what would become Hamilton's largest fire nor had he any intention of hurting anyone but intentions aside the fire raged out of control.

The fire that ensued would rage on for most of a day and continue to smolder for almost 4 days afterwards. As it raged on it spewed vile clouds of poisonous muck into the air from the plastics is consumed. Once they began to realize what they were engulfed in and begun to take protective measures it was too late for many of the crew to avoid the exposure. They had breathed in the vile cloud for hours and were concerned for the long term effects of the whole ordeal. So much so that over 200 firefighters who worked the blaze each have a file with the health board to the effect that they were exposed to it as the true impact may not be felt for years to come. One firefighter has already lost his life to cancer that was likely caused by the fire. Bob Shaw fought against the disease that would eventually claim him but his loss was not entirely for nothing. A law has finally been passed by the provincial government by unanimous vote (how often does the entire government agree on anything?)that Now, eight job-related cancers contracted by full-time firefighters will be presumed to be work-related, as will heart attacks that occur within 24 hours of a fire. Finally a step to protect those that protect us every day by putting their very lives on the line has been enacted and it;s about damn time.

The site where this horror took place has been stripped and bulldozed and now a park stands where the fire took place. A movement to name the park "Firefighter's Park" was made but understandably was vetoed by the people who wanted to forget the whole mess. While they are a proud lot and have bravery to spare, they have no desire to relive the tragedy and pain that a call like this can bring up. To memorialize it would just seem wrong to them. While they would like to forget it all happened and just go on doing the job they are called to do, I would like to thank each and every one of them for the sacrifices they make and the risks they take to make sure we are all safe and sound. If it isn't too much trouble also take a minute to remember Bob's sacrifice and that of all those who run in when we would fail.


Blogger Lisa said...

Wow, that's an incredible 'stain' as you call it. How frightening for all those involved and the rest of your town.

Amazing that an 8 year old started that.

3:26:00 PM  
Blogger jcpiercy said...

Pete , thanks for taking the time to write such meaningful words.

Its unfortunate that it took a Plastimet fire in Hamilton to make people aware of the dangers in firefighting.

Im grateful for having spent some time working with Bob Shaw .

John Piercy

10:40:00 PM  

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