Hot Summer Nights: Bringing Fire Departments Closer to the Community
Engaging with the community is an important aspect of a fire department’s work, and one initiative that has proven to be successful in building these connections is the Hot Summer Nights program. This program, led by Fire Chief Michael Van Dop and the Maple Ridge Fire Department, has been running for over 25 years and has become a highly anticipated event in the community. In this article, we will explore the origins of Hot Summer Nights, its growth over the years, and its impact on both the community and the firefighters involved.
Maple Ridge Fire Department
We had the privilege of sitting down with Chief Van Dop to discuss the importance of this initiative and its many benefits for the fire department and the communities they serve. As part of our commitment to assisting communities, FireWise is actively engaged in completing a Fire Department Master Plan in collaboration with the Maple Ridge Fire Department. Chief Van Dop emphasized the importance of strategic planning in this endeavour, stating, “We must get this right to ensure the fire department’s ability to meet current community needs while anticipating future growth.”
Maple Ridge, a thriving community, is projected to welcome over 40,000 new residents in the next decade and beyond. Recognizing this impending growth, Chief Van Dop stressed the importance for the fire department to act purposefully and to fulfil the city’s expectations now and in the future. He emphasized the need to proactively consider the potential impact of this growth and position the fire department for success.
Chief Van Dop’s vision for the Fire Department has various aspects, as he expressed, “We need to be intentional about our actions as a fire department and as part of the entire corporation. By doing so, we not only meet the city’s present needs but also lay a solid foundation to accommodate future demands.”
How Hot Summer Nights Connects the Community
What originally started to engage the community and to ensure rapid response times by having the volunteer firefighters on duty during the event, the initiative quickly gained traction. It started with a single fire truck visiting neighbourhoods, spraying water, and generating excitement among children. However, over time, it has evolved into a much greater community event that the entire city looks forward to.
Expansion and Collaboration
Today, the Hot Summer Nights program spans four to five weeks during the hottest period of the summer, typically from mid-July to mid-August. With the growth of the Maple Ridge Fire Department, the initiative has expanded to take place in multiple neighbourhoods at one time. The event has also seen collaboration with other city departments, such as Parks, Recreation, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
Hot Summer Nights is not just about spraying water and having fun; it offers an opportunity for different departments to engage with the community and provide valuable information. During the events, families can enjoy activities such as touring RCMP cruisers and excavators from Public Works and enjoying treats from food trucks. Fire Chief Van Dop emphasizes that these activities can also serve as natural conversation starters, allowing firefighters to discuss recruitment efforts and other community initiatives. It’s a chance to break down barriers and create a more human connection with residents.
Fire Chief Van Dop expresses, “At the end of it, you’ll see kids shivering, not wanting to go and not wanting to stop.” He also emphasizes that firefighters wholeheartedly participate as well by saying, “Let’s just say the firefighters aren’t shy about getting wet themselves. We always make a point of making sure that the firefighters are equally enjoying themselves.”
The impact of the Hot Summer Nights program goes beyond a single event. It builds a sense of community and brings neighbours closer to one another. Families plan their Wednesday nights around the event, hosting pizza dinners for the neighbourhood before the fire trucks arrive. As a result, those who may have been strangers become familiar faces, creating lasting relationships within the community. Firefighters also have the opportunity to involve their own families. Chief Van Dop describes this by stating, “It’s heart-warming. The feeling that you have when you attend one of these is great. The kids and families are all having a blast.”
Inspiring Other Fire Departments
The success of the Hot Summer Nights initiative has not gone unnoticed. Chief Van Dop mentions that they have shared the program with other fire departments, and some have adopted similar initiatives. The key to success lies in adapting the program to the specific needs and resources of each community. While the scale may vary, the spirit of bringing firefighters closer to the community remains the driving force behind these programs.
The Hot Summer Nights initiative led by Fire Chief Van Dop and the Maple Ridge Fire Department exemplifies the importance of community engagement for fire departments. Through a simple idea that began over 25 years ago, the program has evolved into a community event that people look forward to year-round. It not only provides a platform for fun and excitement for children but also serves as an opportunity to build connections between firefighters and residents.
By expanding the initiative and collaborating with other city departments, Hot Summer Nights has become a heart-warming experience that strengthens the Maple Ridge community. As additional fire departments adopt similar programs, the Hot Summer Nights initiative continues demonstrating the impact of connecting with the community.
If your department wants to share information about fire prevention programs that have been successful in your community, don’t hesitate to get in touch with Vraya Forrest at email@example.com to arrange an interview.
Looking for more? Sign up for your free copy of FireWatch. A monthly digital newsletter where we bring the latest industry news to your fingertips. The articles we share have caught our attention, and we will keep you in the “know”!SIGN UP NOW