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Firefighters go above and beyond following Fiona's fury

Parrsboro firefighter Dave ‘The Hammer’ Young stands beside the rescue truck he drivers for the Parrsboro Fire Department. Young, who loves to cook, served close to 700 meals to people during the extended power outage following post-tropical storm Fiona on Sept. 23 and 24. Darrell Cole – Municipality of Cumberland

In the days following post-tropical storm Fiona numerous people across Cumberland County rose to the challenge of assisting those when they were most vulnerable.

 One of those to rise to the occasion was a 14-year veteran firefighter with the Parrsboro Fire Department, who not only staffed the fire station throughout the storm but stayed there to help others in the community by cooking up his own storm.

“I knew my place on Whitehall Road would have no power, so I hunkered down here at the fire department,” said Dave ‘The Hammer’ Young, who spent six days at the fire department. “I knew someone would be needed to look after things here, so I volunteered to stay and help and I’d do it again if needed.”

Over a six-day period, Young cooked close to 700 meals for those affected by the storm, serving everything from bacon and eggs to pot roast.

“I love to cook and love being in the kitchen,” Young said. “To me, it was no big deal.

“I’d start cooking around 7 a.m. and kept cooking until people wanted supper. We had bacon and eggs and ham.”

The storm on Sept. 23 and 24 caused extensive damage across Cumberland County with thousands being left in the dark for extended periods of time as Nova Scotia Power crews worked around the clock to reconnect people to the power grid.

Damage was extensive in Parrsboro area as it was in other areas, such as around Wentworth, Wallace and Pugwash, with extended power outages for several days following the storm as well as a lot of tree damage.

Young said Fiona was one of the worst storms he has ever experienced, and the damage was quite evident even in the storm’s early hours on Sept. 23.

“It wasn’t long after the lights went out that we got a call here at the station about a downed tree that was a hazard,” Young said. “The way it was laying across the road, I was afraid someone driving would come upon it and not see it until was too late. So, we grabbed a couple of chainsaws and went out to cut it up. After that we used shovels to push it aside. The wind was so strong that it kept pushing our shovels away. It was hard work.”

It was after the storm that Young went to work with his peers in the fire department opening a comfort centre where people could come to charge their electrical devices, have a cup of coffee and enjoy some electricity before going back to their homes.

Young, who is retired from his carpentry business, is quick to deflect any praise saying it was a community effort to get through the storm. He said people emptied out their freezers to support the cause while the farmer’s market and the Co-op also provided things like eggs, bacon and other food.

“People really appreciated it,” Young said. “We were here when we were needed. That’s what the fire department is all about, being there for the community.”

Cumberland County Mayor Murray Scott said Young is an example of how fire departments across the county responded during after the storm.

“It’s amazing how firefighters went to work from one end of Cumberland County to the other making sure everyone was safe when the rest of us were in the safety and comfort of our homes,” Scott said.“Firefighters went above and beyond during the storm in the days following making sure people had a place to go.”

Of the municipality’s 16 rural fire departments, 14 opened comfort centres. Also, when the storm knocked out communications in parts of the county, all the departments had someone at their fire stations around the clock should someone have an emergency.

“People knew if they were having an emergency and unable to call 911 they could go to their closest fire department and someone would be there to communicate with the appropriate first responders,” the mayor said. “That peace of mind means a lot when you’re living in a rural community and you can’t pick up your phone to dial 911.”