Stamp celebrates firefighters' dedication


ROBERT AARON
SPECIAL TO THE STAR



In rural Canada, neighbours help one another and look out for each other. In more than 3,500 communities across the country, neighbours may one day be called on to risk their lives for each other.

They are volunteer firefighters, the more than 120,000 men and women who answer the call day or night with fearless dedication.

Last month, Canada Post recognized the efforts of these selfless heroes with a commemorative stamp in their honour. The 48- cent stamp went on sale at post offices across Canada at the end of last month.

Those of us who live in large cities like Toronto might not realize that 85 per cent of the firefighters in Canada are volunteers and they protect 80 per cent of the communities in this country.

Volunteer firefighters are well-trained and their capabilities extend to handling fires in highrise buildings, shopping malls and industrial sites, as well as the family home, farm or local school.

In addition, they are often called upon to tend to the injured at accidents, search for missing children, provide emergency medical treatment or teach public safety.

While no longer found in most major Canadian cities, volunteer fire departments remain active in small towns and rural areas. Of the 4,000 fire departments across Canada, about 3,500 are manned by volunteers.

Volunteer firefighters are the first line defenders against many community dangers, according to Mike Walsh, president of the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association. "They answer the call every day," he said, "literally putting their lives on the line for the people of their community."

At the Ottawa ceremony unveiling the stamp, Steven Mahoney, secretary of state whose portfolio includes Canada Post, offered his praise. "Volunteer firefighters are trusted members of many Canadian communities. Service to a volunteer unit often means countless hours away from family as they perform their duties. The commitment shown by these men and women to the protection of their neighbours, their community, and their country, is unparalleled."

The new Canada Post stamp pictures three images that reflect the urgency of the situation volunteer firefighters encounter when responding to a call, with a central image of a firefighter carrying a child to safety.

The stamp was designed by François Dallaire of Montreal, who has created a number of previous Canadian stamps. Photography of the firefighter is by Guy Lavigueur, also of Montreal. Background photos are by Jacques Paul and Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe.

The Canadian firefighter stamp is reminiscent of the very moving Heroes of 2001 postage stamp in the United States. It features three firefighters standing amid the ruins of the World Trade Center in New York, raising a flag on a leaning flagpole.


The stamp itself was sold at a premium above face value, with the proceeds being used to provide assistance to families of emergency relief personnel killed or permanently disabled in the line of duty following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

For more information on Canadian and American stamps, visit your local stamp store, or go online to http://www.canadapost.ca or http://www.usps.com.