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Department Spotlight: Grand Falls, NB

In New Brunswick, Grand Falls Fire Department Chief Charles Kavanaugh grew up half a block from the local fire hall and remembers running outside every time he heard the fire alarm. “I’d run up to the corner to see which direction [the trucks] were going,” the chief recalls. At the age of eight, he started hanging out at the fire hall to watch the firefighters in action. “I guess I never really left,” he exclaims.

Kavanaugh has been with Grand Falls for over 40 years. He was made deputy chief 20 years ago and became chief in 2008.

Because he’s spent so much of his life with the department, he says his favorite aspect of the job is getting to meet so many new people who later become good friends. “I especially love going to association meetings,” he says. “I’ve created a lot of friendships by attending these meetings.”

New Brunswick is the only province of Canada where both English and French are the official languages. Because the region is largely comprised of trees, logging is a major industry within the province.

The rural areas of New Brunswick offer a range of small rivers, lakes, and swampland, which make canoeing a common weekend activity in much of the area. Hiking paths are also common, though more prevalent within parklands.

Tourism is a good source of revenue for much of the province. New Brunswick gets a lot of through-traffic as it is often used as a gateway to Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Cape Breton. There are parts of New Brunswick, such as the southeastern coast, that offer lovely scenery and some excellent beaches.

Kavanaugh notes that the area has changed since he joined the department. “There’s been a lot of government restructuring, and new municipalities have been established,” he notes. The municipal reform restructured the province into 78 local governments and 12 new “rural districts,” all encompassed by 12 regional service commissions. New Brunswick went from 340 local governments and districts to 90. This act has nearly doubled the population.

Kavanaugh notes that the province has made drastic improvements with regards to firefighting resources. “There’s a better water supply with more reserve,” he says.

Regardless of the restructuring, Kavanaugh says his department has always had good working relationships with the neighboring departments. “They’ve always been great to come out and help when needed, and we’ve been there for them as well,” he says.

The Grand Falls Fire Department is comprised of 25 volunteers which includes paid on call. “I’d have to say that our greatest challenge is just keeping our guys motivated to stay, so we initiate regular training exercises,” he says. “The fewer incidents we have, the more training we require to keep the guys up to snuff.”

He adds that the advent of COVID has complicated the way they respond to calls. “We have more restrictions which require smaller groups of firefighters who must be aware of personal distance,” he says.

The department currently has five apparatus plus two support vehicles—two engines, a tanker, an aerial ladder, and a rescue truck. A rescue boat rounds out the department’s equipment. “When a call comes through, we all respond,” Kavanaugh says. “Everyone goes to the station where they get dressed. Then they head to the corresponding vehicles that are needed at that particular call.”

Kavanaugh says the department had been working with a handicap for years—the size of the building. The current structure is so small that the company has to house two of their trucks at a nearby public works facility. Kavanaugh is looking forward to the completion of a new, larger building that will comfortably accommodate all of the apparatus.

Kavanaugh also hopes to replace some of the older trucks. “Some of them are over 30 years old, and parts are hard to come by,” he says. Recently, they purchased a used but refurbished truck that is “new to us.” Eventually he hopes to replace the entire fleet.

The chief says he’s relied on Metalfab to keep the department stocked with the best equipment. “The first new purchase we had with Metalfab was a rescue truck,” he recalls. “That was in 2000.”

In 2004, they had an existing tanker refurbished, and in 2011, they purchased their first new pumper from Metalfab. “Everything we’ve ever purchased from Metalfab has been in excellent condition and perfect working order,” he says. “We’ve always been satisfied. They are a great company to work with, always responsive and willing to work with us.”

If you are interested in hearing what Metalfab can do for you, please feel free to contact our Business Development Manager, Ryan Stacey. We are more than happy to meet or simply have a discussion with you at anytime.