Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Firefighter wants sons to find different careers

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MAMAS, DON'T LET YOUR BABIES GROW UP TO BE... Firefighters have long been what little boys dream of growing up to be. It's even the dream job of a lot of boys -- and girls, too -- when they actually grow up and start looking for a fulfilling and financially secure career. Topped up with some overtime, senior firefighters can make upwards of $90,000, and their city pension is hot, too.

But Alex Forrest, the president of the local union, says he doesn't want his own little boys growing up and following him up the ladder or into a burning building, although I'm not sure many of the city's current complement of 920 firefighters would trade jobs with anyone else. Especially since many of them use some of their days off to do second jobs anyway. But Forrest's talking as a dad who believes the job is getting more dangerous, not less, because of the toxins in modern construction. Arguably, it's already the most deadly occupation in Manitoba, even if the actual numbers over the last decade place it fifth on the list. Forrest said the occupations ahead of firefighting on the Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba's list of the province's deadliest jobs -- like the No. 1 category, "tradesperson," in which 119 died between 2000 and 2011-- have significantly more workers.

Manitoba's deadliest jobs

There have been 415 work-related deaths in Manitoba between 2000 and 2011, both on the job and occupation-disease-related. Of those, 318 occurred in five occupation categories. Here are Manitoba's deadliest jobs and the numbers of deaths:

Tradesperson   119

Farmer   61

Truck driver   59

Labourer   44

Firefighter   35

-- source: Workers Compensation Board of Manitoba, Workplace Injury and Illness Statistics 2000-2011

Besides, Forrest said, the expansion of what qualifies as an occupation-related death among firefighters has added to the number the WCB posted last year, moving it -- in his estimation -- closer to 45 than the posted 35. In fact, this weekend Forrest will be in Colorado Springs, Colo., adding nine more recently recognized names to an international monument honouring fallen firefighters. Going back to the late 1800s, 94 Manitoba firefighters have died for occupation-related reasons, almost half of them on the job. All those names will be inscribed on a memorial that will be going up on Memorial Boulevard to honour not only firefighters who have given their lives, but Manitoba peace officers and workers in general. Forrest said the monument will probably cost close to $1 million, and the firefighters have already raised their portion of the cost.

Which brings us back to Forrest's three sons, and what he would rather see them become than firefighters.

"Lawyers," Forrest said.

Oh, by the way, Alex Forrest is not only a firefighter. Mind you, Papa Forrest has a law degree, too.

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NAMES OF NOTE... Sophie Shinewald, a remarkable 99-year-old Winnipegger, was recently presented with an honour commensurate with her status as the gem of a person she is -- the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. Sophie lives alone without help, volunteers twice a week, gets around by bus and is believed to be the oldest Canadian to receive the award... Milt Stegall is still doing his part to be a part of Winnipeg. The former Bomber great is the keynote speaker at the second annual Canadian Centre for Refugee Employment Gratitude Gala on Thursday, Sept. 20, at the Franco-Manitoban Cultural Centre... Walle Larsson, Winnipeg's premier jazz saxophone soloist, really has something to blow his horn about. Last month, his tune After The Night hit No. 1 on the New York's Music Choice Smooth Jazz Chart.

-- -- --

LOOK WHO'S BACK IN TOWN... Former Winnipeg police chief Jack Ewatski is back in Winnipeg after a tumultuous and somewhat abbreviated tour of duty in Trinidad and Tobago as the assistant commissioner of the local police service. Both he and Commissioner Dwayne Gibbs, the Canadian who had been leading the country's police service, resigned in July with more than a year left on their three-year contracts. They had been under heavy political fire for allegedly not being tough enough on crime in the gang-infested Caribbean nation. Among other things, the two outsiders created a professional-standards unit for the reputedly corruption-tainted police service and helped reduce the homicide rate by 25 per cent.

The slackers.

What's Ewatski going to do now?

I don't know, but given Ewatski's experience gained both recently and during nine years leading the Winnipeg service, when Winnipeg's new police chief is appointed, he might want to have coffee with a man who could be a useful mentor, both now and in the future.

Because whoever gets the job is going to need all the help he can find.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 13, 2012 B1

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