Where’s the ‘heat?’

Rob Bygrave, Captain of Station 214 holds up a t-shirt emblazoned with the fire station’s crest.If you want to catch your local firefighters at work, chances are the best place is along the highway.

That’s where Station 214 gets most of its calls.

In the wake of the huge fire on Queen Street West that ravaged historic buildings, the question lingers – are there absolutely no fires in this area or do we just never hear about them?

According to firefighters Rob Bygrave and Barry Todhunter, it’s neither.

“Each station has its own calling, depending on what’s in the area,” says Bygrave, captain of station 214, near Meadowvale and Ellesmere roads. “If you’re downtown you’re going to get a lot of high-rise fires.

Out here we get a lot of highway incidents – cars, trucks on the 401 that catch fire by overheating.”

Bygrave has worked at this station for four years but previous to that worked downtown for 20 years.

“Downtown is a busier call volume but out here you get more incidents where you’re actually doing some sort of service,” he says.

“Over 1,700 calls were made to this station in 2007,” says Todhunter, who has been a firefighter for 16 years.

Rob Bygrave watches over his neighbourhood.“There are trucks downtown that are running four or five thousand calls a year, and there are trucks on the island that only run a couple of hundred,” Bygrave says. “It all depends on the demographics of the area.”

In this area, the fire station is tucked into a sleepy residential section of Scarborough. Four firefighters are on duty at any given time.

But what do firefighters do when they are not out, well, firefighting?

“There’s equipment checks, equipment maintenance and training,” Bygrave says. “The upkeep of the station itself, we have to clean and maintain it.”

But it is not simply work that keeps these men active.

“I have two kids, they’re 14 and 16. My daughter, the older one, wants to be a paramedic. I’ve also been married for 18 years,” Bygrave says. “When I’m at home they don’t like to hear about [work]. Like newscasts or anything like that.”

As firefighters, both Bygrave and Todhunter witness their share of tragedy.

“You see a lot of stuff and everyone deals with it differently. It’s not as spectacular as Hollywood makes it,” Bygrave says. “In Hollywood if someone shoots [a gun] the blood explodes on the chest, but in real life if someone gets shot, you can’t even find the hole.

“You see the other side, you see people’s grief. You walk right past the person who’s standing there watching their house burn down.”

Barry Todhunter and Rob Bygrave stand in front of their station’s fire truck.But neither Bygrave nor Todhunter seem concerned with the lack of media attention for their firehouse.

“The media wants a picture on the front page of the paper that’s spectacular, pictures of orange flame against a dark sky. A lot of the times the fire is out very quickly before the media gets there,” Bygrave said. “People think ‘Oh it must have been a quiet night,’ but if you look at the statistics and all the calls it’s different.”

Todhunter agrees.

“It doesn’t really phase me one way or the other what the media reports on. I don’t think it would be a benefit or a hindrance to have more media attention,” he says. “We know what we do to serve the public and that’s all we need.”