Fire chief says most fires begin in the kitchen

Your local firefighter might just be a jack-of-all-trades. Matt Donnelly sure is, having worked at a variety of jobs including a car dealership and parking attendant, before training as a firefighter in the 80s.

“You could technically take the course right out of high school,” he said about the process of becoming a firefighter. “But by the time they hire people they tend to be a little older, like 25. They prefer people that come with work experience.”

Donnelly has been fighting fires for the past 30 years. As part of Fire Prevention Week from Oct. 9 to Oct. 15, the fire department’s training centre at Sheppard Ave. E. and McCowan Rd. held an open house. Interestingly enough, it lacks the traditional pole that firefighters have used to descend for years.

“We’ve had fire prevention week for over a hundred years,” division chief Jim Stoops said. “We hand out fliers in the area and at the school saying that children and their families come along.”

The leading cause of local fires is usually cooking, Stoops said.

“Be very careful around your stove, try to keep safe,” he warned.

Donnelly recalls one particularly interesting fire he helped put out.

“I remember a fire I was helping with, three-storey townhouse fire,” he said. “The windows actually started falling out of it because they weren’t screwed in. They were foamed in by the construction people.”

He reassured the Observer that the family of four living there got out safely.

The open house had several fire trucks on display as well as a mock three-storey building in the centre of the training grounds.

“This used to be used for live fires,” he explained. “They still do that; you see the windows are charred?”

John is a local firefighter who was explaining firefighting to a small child. The Observer asked him about the similarities between movie firefighters and real-life ones.

“We don’t play that kind of thing up,” he replied. “The last thing you want to do is say ‘Look what I did!’ We all have lots of stories.”