By BILL HARRIS
Special to The Lede
People never call the fire department just to say everything’s okay. Whenever a call comes in, something bad has happened, be it big or small.
Chief Albert Bahri, who has been in fire protection for 33 years, understands this all too well. In HELLFIRE HEROES - which returns with new episodes, Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on Discovery - the public gets to follow along with Bahri and his cohorts, to see the vast array of crises that they face first-hand.
We chatted with Chief Bahri, who is the Director of Protective Services and the Fire Chief for Yellowhead County in Alberta, to set up the exciting new season of HELLFIRE HEROES:
Q Are there certain things about your job that you wish the public understood better?
Chief Albert Bahri: “The biggest one that comes to mind is traffic. When we have to close a highway, such as Highway 16 here in Alberta, where the speed limit is 110 kilometres an hour, people don't understand that we have to keep the safety of our staff in mind, and why we want them to slow down. There's nothing scarier than standing at a crash scene when a semi goes by at 110 kilometres an hour, because he hasn't slowed down, and you feel a vacuum sucking you out towards the truck. We're not blocking the highway because we want to, we're blocking it to get a job done, and the quicker you let us do it, the quicker we'll get out of here.”
Q: You must have seen some scripted TV shows about firefighters that drive you crazy because of what you perceive to be inaccuracies?
Chief Albert Bahri: “I’m trying to bite my tongue, because there are some great shows. But with some of the things they do, and the ways they do it, then people will come to us and say, 'Hey, do you do this?' And we have to say, ‘No, sorry, we can't do that, because nobody can, it’s not possible.’ I'm not trying to slag any of these shows, but it’s fiction. Sometimes it's frustrating, sometimes it's comical, but we have to kind of get the real facts out there.”
Q: You must see risk everywhere, right?
Chief Albert Bahri: “It’s terrible when I go to a restaurant, I always size up a building when I'm walking in. I know where the exits are. I know where the entry points are. I check to see if it's sprinklered. Everything we see is risk-based management. Because everything that you do, you cause risk. The question is, are you mitigating it, or do we have to come and mitigate it?”
Q: People just don’t realize how quickly fire can go from being a friend to an enemy.
Chief Albert Bahri: “In the blink of an eye, it goes from something you’re enjoying to disaster. It's that fast. From a firefighter's perspective, we respect fire, whether it's controlled or not. When people become complacent and don't have that overall respect, it gets away from them.”
Q: We see in one of the new episodes of HELLFIRE HEROES the great care you take after there has been a fatality. Honestly, I hadn’t really considered that aspect of your job.
Chief Albert Bahri: “When we get those calls, families and citizens out there expect that we handle it with the greatest and utmost respect, and treat those people that have passed away with dignity. It's trying at times, because we see things that most people shouldn't see. And we're exposed to it on a regular basis.”
Q: So it must be particularly meaningful to you when you get to connect with the public in better circumstances.
Chief Albert Bahri: “Our one saving grace are the kids, when it's fire-prevention week, and the kids come around the station, and the public comes to visit. That's how we're able to interact, and everyone can see the positive side of everything we do.”