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  • Today Online

Father and daughter make firefighter history

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

• Gerry and Anna Holland Train To Become Volunteer Firefighters

International Firefighters’ Day is observed every year in May, honoring the commitment and sacrifice of career and volunteer firefighters — those who came before, those yet to come, and especially those who paid the ultimate price with their lives in service to their communities.

The Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department will celebrate the day by focusing on its proud history of recruiting family, friends and neighbors into its membership.

The year 2021 represents a first for the department: A father and daughter, Gerry and Anna and Gerry Holland, are pursuing Firefighter 1 Interior Certification together. Gerry has been a state-certified EMT for 14 years. Anna, Gerry, Colby Kordas and Putt Brown are Canton’s newest interior fire candidates.

All four are already Canton exterior firefighters, and now they are training to be interior firefighters. The state’s Firefighter 1 Interior Certification, with 200-plus hours of coursework, is required for a Canton interior firefighter.

Some volunteers serve solely as exterior firefighters — they drive the fire apparatus and then remain with the truck, pumping water to the fire hose and providing other exterior support functions.

Following is a heartfelt Q&A with the Holland team:

Why should someone volunteer for the Fire & EMS service?

Gerry — People volunteer for different reasons. For some, it's a calling. For others, it's a way to give back or challenge themselves. As an EMT for 14 years, I can tell you that the Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department needs help, on both the Fire and EMS sides. It takes many hands to accomplish all the tasks needed, for the wide variety of emergencies we respond to, 24/7. I encourage anyone interested to look into joining our ranks.

Anna — The Fire/EMS services also provide an amazing opportunity to learn valuable life and professional skills like teamwork, discipline, communication and leadership. Many members go on to pursue careers in the medical field, law enforcement or fire services.

Gerry Holland (center) and Anna Holland (right) practice fire-hose skills with instructor Joe McElroy

How do you feel about Gerry/Anna running into burning buildings?

Gerry — My wife Lisa and I are extremely proud of Anna. Our Litchfield County Regional Fire School training provides us with the skills, expertise and tools to not only have each other’s backs, but the backs of our Fire/EMS brothers and sisters as well.

Editor’s Note —The Canton Volunteer Fire & EMS Department sends students to both the Litchfield and Hartford County Regional Fire Schools, depending on when Firefighter 1 and other classes are available.

Anna — When Dad and I are dispatched to a structure fire, motor vehicle accident, river rescue or hazardous materials emergency, we’re responding as members of a crew. That transition may be hard at first, but I trust our training and trust him. The muscle memory developed through Fire School and ongoing drilling keeps us all safer.

Lisa Holland — Watching Anna and Gerry study, I am confident they’re gaining the knowledge of what to expect and how to keep themselves, and their fellow crew members, safe by doing the best they can. It’s not helpful to allow the worry to supersede this noble and selfless work.

How has COVID changed the Fire & EMS service?

Gerry — Our personnel are the department’s most critical asset. So making sure they are trained and protected keeps the entire community safer. What COVID has demonstrated is that our ability to adjust to quickly changing circumstances has made Canton’s EMTs and firefighters even more valuable at meeting the needs of our community.

The Last Word:

Anna — The best way we can celebrate the true meaning of International Firefighters' Day is to show up when a call comes in, and then provide the professional expertise and solutions we’ve been trained to deliver, to ensure we all get to go home. +

— Special to Today Magazine

• This article first appeared in the May edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication

• Today Magazine covers the heart of Connecticut's Farmington Valley — recording the underreported upside of the Valley's five core towns: Farmington, Avon, Canton, Simsbury and Granby

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