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Pandemic hasn't kept this volunteer from pursuing firefighting dream

Ethan Johnson, 19, says COVID-19 has changed the way his fellow firefighters do their jobs at Prince Township Fire Department, but it hasn't dampened their dedication
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19-year-old volunteer firefighter Ethan Johnson says he is trying to be optimistic and look at the pandemic as another learning opportunity. Photo provided

Essential services like the Prince Township Fire Department need to be ready 24/7, especially during a global pandemic. 19-year-old volunteer Ethan Johnson gets to see and experience firsthand how a service like this is managed during COVID-19.

“I started volunteering at the fire department in the summer of 2019,” Johnson said. “After meeting Chief (Steve) Hemsworth and discussing his plans, I quickly liked the direction that the department was heading in. There are a lot of young, eager individuals committed to the success of the Prince Township Fire Department. I want to continue learning and developing skills as a firefighter, and this was the perfect place to do this. I enjoy giving back to the community and being part of a team.”

“We are still operating during COVID-19, Chief Hemsworth has been doing a great job with making sure that smaller groups go to the hall and keep proper physical distancing. We make sure that we are all safe during training as well as when responding to alarms. We are available to respond 24 hours a day seven days a week,” he said.

Johnson currently attends school at Lambton College in Sarnia, studying Pre-Service Firefighting and Fire Science Technology. He has goals to become a professional firefighter in a municipal fire service after he completes his studies. 

“I find it very rewarding knowing that you are offering a helping hand to someone in their worst time of need,” he said. “The rewards come in different ways, by helping people, by working with the members of the department and because there is always a learning opportunity.”

Johnson’s favourite part about being a volunteer, other than learning from the other firefighters, is when they do birthday drive-bys for kids. 

“Seeing the child's face light up when they see the big red fire truck coming towards them with lights and sirens on is special. There are no words to describe seeing that pure joy from the child's face. It’s what being a part of Prince's community is all about,” he said. 

Even though dealing with a pandemic is more of a negative than a positive, he is still looking at it as another learning opportunity. 

“The overall experience with COVID-19 and how it has affected the way we can operate as a normal department sticks out to me,” he said. “The pandemic information was received quickly and it changed regularly. It was very important that the members of Prince Fire were kept informed and up to date. Not being able to train as one large group and having protocols change for responses, and using on-scene screening tools prior to engaging with people are just some examples.”

“I think that all communities need to follow the preventive measures prescribed by Algoma Public Health and Public Health Ontario,” he said. “They are the experts. I feel that the District of Algoma has dealt with the pandemic very well and our leaders have done an excellent job. I would like to thank all the essential service workers that continue to provide services to all of us while facing the risk of exposure to COVID-19. They are the real heroes in this pandemic.”



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