Volunteer Spotlight: Pauline Olesen
Name: Pauline Olesen
Title: Risk Management Officer
Department Name: Piers Island Volunteer Fire Department
Location: Piers Island, British Columbia, Canada
What is your career?
I’m a fused glass artist and I do some web design work as well and a retired insurance adjuster.
How long have you been an NVFC member?
Less than a year
Why are you an NVFC member?
I joined in order to enter the Globe Gear contest as we are in need of new gear for our little department. The surprise has been the wealth of information available to NVFC members. So much, that I haven’t had time to fully delve into all that is there to assist volunteer fire departments. Like too many departments, we are small, with a limited budget and a very limited volunteer pool. Government training requirements are increasing safety for volunteer firefighters, but it puts an added commitment level on volunteers. NVFC recognizes that and aims to help volunteer departments recruit and access training information. We hope to be utilizing your WFAP Home Assessment Checklist to better Fire Smart our community.
Why are you a volunteer firefighter?
We live on a very small island and many people come here to retire, which results in a very small pool of people fit enough to handle equipment. When you are needed, you pitch in for the community and do your best. We are an exterior operations only department on an island where any fire would quickly become an interface fire. People often think that they can’t do anything to help, but if you are in reasonable shape and committed to learning and spending time, it’s the best volunteering you can do for your community. We have made wonderful connections with other nearby larger volunteer fire departments, who are all so helpful and generous with their time.
How long have you been in the fire service?
15 years off and on
What are your memorable moments as a firefighter or EMS provider?
On our small island we are faced primarily with medical emergencies. Whenever possible we transport the patient into the hands of our provincial ambulance service. Every one of those transfers is in and out of boats and often in the middle of the night. And every one of those patients is someone we know personally – that makes it hard, but it makes you understand how much you are needed to make this possible in our isolated community. Without our First Responders & Firefighters, any medical assistance would be delayed by an hour. That makes a huge difference in patient care.
What contributions have you (and your department) made in your community?
Bringing the ability to have First Responders available is I think the biggest contribution to our community. We work hard with the community on fire prevention, bringing fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, and carbon monoxide detectors to the island for them to buy. We have no stores on the island, so anything we can do to make it easier, we try. A recent house to house smoke alarm check and chat revealed that most people do not have carbon monoxide detectors and most use fireplaces or woodstoves in the winter. We hope our chats with our neighbors will make them all safer. We’ve not had a structure fire here in over 30 years, we hope to keep it that way.