Viewing posts categorised under: General

Firefighter Amanda Bernier Honored at Salute to Connecticut’s Bravest

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General


Amanda Bernier, center, received the 2015 Connecticut District Exchange Club’s Salute

to Connecticut’s Bravest award. The North Madison Volunteer Fire Company member

was joined by (from left) Denise Bernier, Chris Bernier, Tim Herget, and Jeff Pumm

at the Oct. 15 ceremony.


Amanda Bernier, the Madison firefighter battling ALS while raising her newborn daughter with husband and fellow firefighter Chris Bernier, was one of this year’s honorees at the Connecticut District Exchange Club’s Salute to Connecticut’s Bravest, an award that recognizes outstanding firefighters from cities and towns throughout the state. The event, held on Oct. 15 at the Aqua Turf in Plantsville, honored a woman whose continuing fight has inspired so many in the local community and beyond.

Raised in a family of firefighters, Amanda joined the Lancaster, New York Volunteer Fire Department as an explorer when she was in high school and eventually became a senior member. In 2006 she joined the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company, and in 2011 she began work as an emergency medical services responder with Madison Ambulance.

Shortly after becoming pregnant in 2014, 30-year-old Amanda was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. ALS is a neurodegenerative disease that causes the deterioration of motor neurons, loss of voluntary muscle movements, and eventually death. Patients lose the ability to move their limbs and to talk, swallow, and breathe. Amanda’s ALS was a particularly aggressive form that had taken her mother’s and grandmother’s lives.

Although she did not know whether she would survive her pregnancy long enough to meet her baby face to face, Amanda and her husband welcomed daughter Arabella Grace on Nov. 4, 2014, and will soon be celebrating her first birthday.

Since Arabella’s birth, Amanda has earned national recognition for her efforts in raising ALS awareness. This year, despite losing her ability to both move any part of her body except for her eyes and breathe without a ventilator, she has written honestly and poignantly—via an eye-tracker—about her experiences as an ALS patient. Thousands have read and been inspired by her stories, shared widely on Facebook.

Local media outlets have featured stories about her work on behalf of the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge., and a host of additional online publications picked up her inspiring narrative about overcoming the challenges of breast-feeding Arabella after it went viral.

 As a firefighter and EMT, Amanda learned firsthand the skills and mindset required to deal with the unpredictable, dangerous, and unknown.

“There are no routine calls,” she says.

She recalled a life-alert activation call, for instance. Normally such a call is a false alarm, nothing really, as people often set it off without knowing. Amanda and her partner, however, arrived on scene to hear an elderly man calling from the roof, where he’d fallen face-down after slipping on the moss in an attempt to clean his gutters.

“My wife can’t find out about this!” he told her repeatedly.

Amanda and her partner climbed on the roof and helped him back inside through his bedroom window.

 Then there was the Christmas-time call, an accident on Route 80. The car had been going too fast around a curve, veered into the woods, and bounced back into the road. The father on the passenger side was dead. His semi-conscious son, suffering from double-femur fractured legs and a severe head injury, was pinned inside. Amanda crawled inside the vehicle, over his father, to stabilize the son’s head and give him oxygen. The son lived.

Later that same night, Amanda responded to another call that took her past the evening’s earlier accident scene. She steered around the spot into the opposite lane, unable to drive over the place where the father had just died.

“That was my worst call,” she says.

Determined to hold her own as a female firefighter, Amanda constantly trained and conditioned.

“The fire does not care if you are male or female,” she says.

Exercising was important to her job performance as a firefighter. On a personal level, she also exercised in case she had inherited that ALS gene that had taken her mother and grandmother. Maybe she could turn it off or delay its expression by staying fit and healthy.

Within months after running road races, however, she was unable to climb into a fire truck on her own. She turned around to her husband, behind her as she climbed the steps.

“My legs,” she told him.

Though she didn’t yet know it, gene mutation SOD1 had begun its course. That familial ALS known to her ancestors since the 1700s as the “Underwood Disease” had awakened in Amanda, whose family name is Underwood.

Amanda continues her work on behalf of ALS while writing letters and preparing gifts for Arabella to read on her birthdays, her wedding day, and other milestone occasions.

And she continues as a first responder, listening to radio communications and answering calls in the only way she can: prayer. Nevertheless, she adds, “If it’s your time it’s your time.”

Whether a routine lift-assist or the worst of calls, she is present and helping, still, at the scene.



Article and photo by Mary Elliott

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Change your clock, change your batteries

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General



North Madison Fire would like to remind all residents to change the batteries in their smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors. Taking this simple step can save the lives of you and your family.

Many fatal fires occur at night while the victims are sleeping. A working smoke alarm can double the chances of survival by increasing the amount of time a person has to escape a fire in their home. Fire safety is as simple as making a habit of changing your smoke detector batteries when the time changes in spring and fall.



Remember these tips about smoke alarms:

Have smoke alarms on every level of your home, especially outside sleeping areas—and preferably inside bedrooms as well.

Test them at least once a month

Replace all detectors after 10 years.

Place smoke alarms according to manufacturer’s directions.

Clean the outside ONLY of a smoke alarm by gently going over the cover with the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner. Never paint a smoke alarm.

Whenever a smoke alarm beeps, take it seriously. It might just be a false alarm from cooking, temperature changes, or dust—but you can’t afford to ignore the alert. Everyone in the family needs to react immediately.

Develop and practice a home escape plan. Make sure your family knows two ways out of each room, a safe meeting place outside, how to call 9-1-1 once they’re out, and why they should NEVER go back into a burning house.

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Halloween Fire Safety

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General



There are 10,300 fires during the three-day period around Halloween. These fires cause about 25 deaths, 125 injuries and $83 million in property loss.

North Madison Fire would like to help our community  be safer during Halloween by sharing a few fire safety tips with our residents:

  • Choose a costume without long trailing fabric. This can cause a child to trip or may touch flames in jack-o’-lanterns or other decorations.
  • If you make your own costume, use materials that won’t catch on fire easily if they come in contact with heat or flame.
  • Give your children flashlights or glow sticks so they can see where they are walking.
  • Keep decorations away from candles, light bulbs or heaters.
  • Consider using flameless candles or glow sticks in your jack-o’-lantern.
  • Keep exits clear of decorations.

For more information about Halloween fires and fire safety, check out the U.S. Fire Administration’s website, where you can find Halloween social media cards to share and the Halloween fire data snapshot.


safety_tips_Halloween_message1.1200x900 safety_tips_Halloween_message2.1200x900

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2015 Open House: Photos Wanted

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

North Madison Fire would like to extend a big thanks to all of the residents and visitors who attended this year’s open house, it was a great success! Photos from the todays events will be available later this week. We would like to see some of your photos, please send them our way!


Bedroom Burn Box 2015

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How old are your smoke alarms?

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

Do you know how old your smoke alarms are? Like many products you use on a daily basis, smoke alarms don’t last forever. Manufacturers recommend that you replace them every 10 years. To check the date your smoke alarm was made, look at the back of the alarm or inside the battery compartment. If it’s time to replace your alarms, consider buying ones with ten-year lithium batteries.

For more information on smoke alarms, the U.S. Fire Administration .

US Fire Admin Smoke Alarm

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Message from the Chief: Fund Drive Letter

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

As part of our annual fund drive we mail out a request for donations and this year was no different. Unfortunately, due to technical issue, many of you may have received an envelope that was improperly addressed. On behalf of the entire company I would like to apologize for inconvenience or confusion this may have caused and assure you that we are working diligently to correct it. We hope to have it resolved shortly.  You may open the letter and donate if you wish by mail or on our secure website. If you have any questions or concerns please do not hesitate to contact me at:

-Chief MacMillan

Fund Drive Letter:

Donation Letter Fall 2015


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Hear the BEEP where you SLEEP

by DC Gabe Balsamo in General

2015 NFPA Banner


“Smoke alarms save lives. If there is a fire in your home, smoke spreads fast and you need smoke alarms to give you time to get out. Having a working smoke alarm cuts the chances of dying in a reported fire in half. Almost two-thirds of home fire deaths resulted from fires in homes with no smoke alarms or no working smoke alarms.

  • Install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each sleeping area and on every level of your home.
  • Test your smoke alarms every month.
  • Replace batteries every six months.
  • When a smoke alarm sounds, get outside and stay outside.
  • Replace all smoke alarms in your home every 10 years

The key message of this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, October 4-10, is to install smoke alarms in every bedroom, outside each separate sleeping area, and on every level of your home, including the basement. Larger homes may need more alarms.”

For more info please vist the National Fire Prevention Agency


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Membership Announcement: Do You Have What It Takes?

by Christopher Steines in General

In order to provide professional fire, rescue, and medical services the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company relies on volunteers from our community. Volunteers just like you! We are currently accepting applications and would welcome any individual who is willing to donate their time and energy to such a worthy cause. If you think you have what it takes and want to contribute to your community in a significant way consider joining the Company and find out why so many of our staff members believe it is such an honor to serve in this organization.

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Firefighting: The Importance of Training

by Christopher Steines in General

Many of the donations received by the North Madison Volunteer Fire Company are used for the specific purposes of maintaining the firehouse which provides our first responders with a safe place to conduct trainings and drills. While training may not seem like an important component of fire rescue and safety, the American Fire Service attributes improvements in training for fire personnel with a decline in the number of fire related deaths over the last decade. In addition to the fact that many lives can be saved as a result of training there are a wide range of reasons to provide fire training for all fire personnel:

  • Training enables firefighters to learn new skills and techniques to make their jobs safer. Firefighters risk their lives to save others. However with the right training some of the risk to fire personnel can be managed.
  • Training enables firefighters to respond more efficiently, reducing the property damage caused by fires. This can be essential in situations where fire damage to the community could be substantial.
  • Training provides firefighters with needed experience. Volunteer firefighters need this experience in order to be effective in their jobs.
  • Training keeps volunteer firefighters active and engaged. Because volunteers typically have full-time careers outside of the firehouse they need training to help them remain engaged and active in the field.

Training serves so many purposes that it is imperative for all firefighters, paid and volunteer. Financial support from the community helps to make training possible strengthening the capabilities of our fire service.

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Paid Versus Unpaid

by Christopher Steines in General

One of the most frequent questions asked by the community is: What is the difference between paid versus unpaid fire departments? The answer is simple: money.

  • Paid firefighters are hired by the community and paid a salary for their service.
  • Volunteer departments, on the other hand, are comprised of individuals who voluntarily give their time and risk their lives to make the community a better place.
  • Volunteer departments do receive some support via tax revenues but also rely on the community to provide them with financial resources that go towards the upkeep of “command central” which houses all of the equipment and apparatus’.

This is why community support of volunteer fire companies is so important. Without the support of the community, volunteer fire companies cannot continue to provide effective fire, rescue, and medical service. This is also why these departments are lucky to have the support of so many dedicated professionals who are willing to give so generously of their time.

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