The Fire Chief for La Broquerie says he was shocked and humbled by the recognition. Alain Nadeau has just returned from Vancouver where he was named Volunteer Fire Chief of the Year by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.
Nadeau was nominated by the Rural Municipality of La Broquerie.
"I was told by one of the selection committee members that this doesn't happen by accident," he says.
Nadeau was informed about six weeks ago that he had won and says keeping that a secret was one of the hardest things he has ever had to do.
He was flown to Vancouver where he was presented the award. Nadeau says it was especially overwhelming considering the award was presented in British Columbia, a province that is going through one of its worst fire seasons of all time. Along with a small trophy, $3,000 was donated in his name to the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation in Ottawa.
"To fall in the line of duty is absolutely giving it all for the people," says Nadeau. "Really, I find that very important."
Nadeau has been a firefighter for 38 years. He spent four years as Deputy Chief and has now been Chief the last 12 years. He says the desire to become a firefighter came to him at an early age.
"When I was a young boy we had a fire on the farmyard back in La Broquerie and the Steinbach firefighters were going everywhere back then," he says. "That really struck me when I saw that as a kid."
He says a lot has changed since 1979. Nadeau says back then, turnout gear seemed like nothing more than a dress tucked into hip waders. Helmets weren't long enough to cover the ears and so you had to slouch and use the collar from your coat for protection. He adds house fires burn hotter and are more toxic today, while crash rescues are now much more frequent.
According to Nadeau, the days of running into a burning house while everyone else is running out doesn't include him anymore. He says that is now for the younger firefighters to do. But he admits it takes someone special to be a firefighter.
'It takes a special person to be wanting to go help people like that every day," he says. "When people are having the worst day of their lives, we're going in there to help."