Over the weekend, I got to see Inuvik in a different light at the 2019 Firefighters’ Ball.
It wasn’t your typical Northern scene. There was a DJ who played the radio’s hottest hits. Everyday residents looked like celebrities as they strolled in with their formal dresses and suits. There was also a hypnotist who toyed with the minds of his bewildered participants.
I also got a chance finally see the faces of the many who put on a firefighter mask. I was surprised to find out that so many familiar faces around town work as firefighters. I was even more surprised when I found out that almost all of them have full-time jobs outside of their firefighting duties, which is entirely volunteer-based.
There are over 30 firefighters in Inuvik’s fire department. The fact that these individuals get up in the middle of the night to answer the call of duty without receiving any monetary compensation is remarkable. To voluntarily risk your own safety and put your life on the line is nothing short of heroic.
The fire department’s annual gala is more than just an excuse for community members to look fancy and have a good time with friends. It’s the one night that celebrates the service and dedication of those who don’t seek recognition or accolades for the work they do.
Dave Bernhardt embodies the spirit of the department. Here’s someone who’s been volunteering for 39 years. He doesn’t put in all these countless hours for money or for public recognition. He does it because he’s giving back to a community that has allowed him to live out his childhood dream.
Bernhardt is a local hero and he was rightfully honoured as such when his fellow firefighters presented him with the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association Municipal Long Service Award at the gala. An emotional Berhnardt, who already carries a humble personality with him wherever he goes, refused to give any sort of speech. He went on stage and was showered with praise as he accepted the award, but he quietly went back to his seat and remained there for the duration of the night.
Bernhardt’s selflessness says a lot about what the community means to him. And although he prefers to stay out of the spotlight, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t appreciate all the work that he does for the community.
Inuvik is fortunate to have a passionate and dedicated group of committed volunteer firefighters such as Bernhardt. A lot of the time, their work goes unnoticed. The least we can do is be grateful and thank them for offering up their own lives for the betterment of the community.
It’s not everyday you have community members willing to put their lives on the line for free. The firefighters’ ball has passed, but it’s important that we continue to acknowledge all that they do to keep us safe.