Johanne Blais recently returned her work equipment and left, after careful consideration, the Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel fire safety service. She graduated as lieutenant, then captain, before retiring after 25 years of service.
The native Trifluvienne remembers very well where this desire to fight the flames came from.
“My grandfather had a woodlot in Rang Saint-Félix and we called because the fire was caught. We went there with the whole family and we saw that the firefighters had started working. From the outset, we decided to help them to try to limit the fire, ”she confides at the outset.
“I saw later that the municipality asked firefighters in Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel so the first time, I was not chosen. I decided to try again a second time and there is one who believed in me, our former director. And I stayed there for 25 years! I have always been drawn to how I can help my community. The male environment has never scared me since at 19, I went to study forestry. ”
As soon as it entered service, it has always done its part like all other firefighters.
“There’s nothing I wasn’t doing because I was like ‘If other people do it, I have to do it too’. The day when I will no longer be able, that will mean that I am no longer in my place, ”adds the one who works full time as a measurer at Commonwealth Plywood in Shawinigan.
“Today, putting on a respirator had become difficult. Not immediately, but the next day, yes. If I’m not mistaken, it weighs 50 lbs. It didn’t have to come at the cost of my main job. “
In 25 years of career, she has faced only two deaths that occurred in the same fire. The intervention that marked her the most was the plane crash that occurred in a transmission tower in Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel, in 2001.
“This is the biggest event we’ve ever had to work with and it was so intense. The pilot remained suspended by his harness, upside down, for a week. I had to accompany the family and the children who came to see their father. From time to time he would ask me for the twins to look at their father, ”she recalls.
“That was hard. They came quite frequently and I had no choice but to tell them that I would like them to have a better memory of their father and not the memory of that moment. I told them, “I wish this was the last time you asked me for the binoculars.” “
Although Johanne Blais could not be absent from her work during the day, she was in the Top-3 firefighters in terms of attendance rate.
“When I started, we had 25 calls per year and in my last year we had 105 calls. I became a lieutenant, then captain. It was a lot of hours of training, but I loved it. On the other hand, whatever my hat on the field, I helped and I continued to get involved in all the interventions, ”she explains.
“What I liked the most was the adrenaline rush to leave without knowing what to expect. I had this will to go and help. I was never afraid to die, oddly enough. And when we had to get into the fire, we would come back. We are always in a team of two and we are able to communicate. What also didn’t bother me was the action of the first responder. I would go to the person at an accident to talk to it and if I was lucky enough to be in the tank, I would go in the tank. I liked to discuss and comfort them. ”
As her husband is also a firefighter at the Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel fire safety service, the two lovers often had to fight the flames together. “No matter what time, Mom was never far to come and babysit. It was special because we were both leaving. ”
Last fall, she decided to withdraw from the service, with no regrets.
“It’s a decision I’ve been thinking about for two years. I told my boss that I was leaving my things there for my five week vacation and that I was going to see if I was going to come back or not. I was always wondering ‘when is the last fire going’ and I was always like ‘I’m going to go to that one’. It wouldn’t have ended (laughs). I withdrew when I saw fit. I didn’t want to be squeezed, ”she testifies.
“When I see my partner leave, now I don’t miss it so I know I made the right decision. It’s the team and the social with the gang that I miss. Becoming a firefighter is an accomplishment for me. I am proud to have been able. ”
And what anecdote will she always remember?
“It’s easy! We received a call from a man whose dog had fallen into a well through a small hole. Arrived on the scene, it was necessary to think. The well was buried and there was cover. “
“We couldn’t hear the dog and we called a glitch of the municipality. It must have taken three hours in total. And the smallest person to enter the well, who was it? It was me! I warned the guys that if Princess wanted to jump on me, when I got down there, pull me back up. When I got downstairs, the dog was there, alive. It was quiet so I was able to reassemble it without any problem, ”she concludes.