In October 2022, civil labourer and volunteer firefighter for the City of Alma’s fire prevention department, Pierre Lavoie, was awarded a medal of bravery for the help that he and his co-workers provided during a rescue on January 20, 2020, when a convoy of French snowmobilers plunged into the waters of the Grande Décharge River. Driven by a natural desire to help others, Lavoie is a truly inspirational pioneer.
What led you to become a volunteer firefighter?
I always wanted to be a firefighter, but I never had the opportunity. I had thought about it early in my career, but I trained as a construction worker instead. I played hockey with a police officer who told me that there were openings for volunteer firefighters, so I applied. That was in 2001. I started at Rio Tinto a few years later, in 2004, when the Pot Relining Centre opened. For the past two years, I’ve had a civilian job. I’ve also been a trainer in the potrooms. There’s a security component to both my jobs.
Why is it important for you to get involved as a volunteer firefighter?
I’ve done a lot of volunteering, and I coached hockey for a long time. What attracted me was the gang and serving the public. It gives me a lot of personal satisfaction. Helping people is part of my DNA.
Security is something I’m passionate about. At the City of Alma’s fire prevention department, our team does everything: ice, indoor and outdoor, vertical and water rescue, and vehicle extrication. I’m also a ladder operator. The department was built from A to Z, and the services are offered across the RCM’s territory. We’re trained for that. Training was demanding, and took place every weekend over a two-year period.
You recently received a medal acknowledging your courage and bravery during the tragic event of January 2020. What does this recognition mean to you?
I’m proud to have received a medal, even if that’s not the reason I do this type of work. When I look back on that event, I think mostly that it could’ve been prevented. It’s sad. They were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.
In your opinion, what skills does this work require?
I’d say that you have to have the same mentality as at Rio Tinto. What’s important is teamwork because, on your own, you can’t do anything. I still enjoy being a volunteer firefighter. I plan to stay involved as long as possible, even after I retire.