By Morgan Hampton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Lt. Brent Manning has received a ten-year service award for his time at the Merritt Fire Rescue Department (MFRD).

“Ten years in the fire service is a big accomplishment for anybody, so it feels amazing,” said Manning about the award.

“I started my firefighting career in Merritt, and I’ve lived here for the last 20 years. My family is originally from here, so it’s been nice being able to serve the community you live in, and help your neighbours and everybody that you see on a daily basis and work with.”

Manning, who grew up in the Fraser Valley, remembers his father taking him to watch firefighters work as a child.

“Growing up as a kid I lived in Abbotsford, and my Dad always had his scanner on, he’d hear there was a fire at somebody’s place and he’d wake me up… and say ‘there’s a fire’, and we’d go watch,” explained Manning.

“Just watching the firefighters go into a burning building, doing everything they could to help their neighbours or putting their life on the line to get a complete stranger out, I thought that was pretty cool. And that just kind of stuck with me from that day on and I thought, I want to do that, that looks fun.”

When Manning made the move to Merritt, his friends suggested he follow through with that dream and join the MFRD. 

“I moved to Merritt and had a couple buddies that were in the hall and they said I should join,” said Manning.

“So, I dropped off an application and ten years later, here I am.”

Manning has gained a wealth of experience in his decade of service, with rescue operations being his preferred role.

“I love everything about it, it’s a great career, or a great hobby I guess for us, because we’re paid on call,” said Manning.

“Everything’s fun, but I’m more into the rescue aspect of things, like on the highways. Every call is different in that you’re not going to get the same thing over and over, and it’s like a puzzle. You have to figure out what to do and how to get them out.”

Being on call often has Manning out the door and racing to an accident or emergency in a matter of moments. He expressed his thanks to his family, particularly his two daughters, who understand that their father sometimes has to leave unexpectedly to do his job and help people.

And when it comes to family, Manning feels that joining MFRD has given him two.

“We’re always there at the drop of a dime to help somebody out,” said Manning.

“It’s great, you have two families, one at the firehall and your personal family at home. I would 100% recommend it. The nice thing with a small community is that it’s not a hobby, it’s family. We’re working next to each other in the most dangerous conditions and we’re all family. We’re brothers and sisters, they’re always there when you need them.”

Manning encourages anyone considering firefighting, either as a volunteer or as a full time career, to join the MFRD.

“Anybody who’s thinking about it or on the fence about it, we’re always looking for members,” said Manning.

“It’s a great opportunity, all your training is provided and paid for, and with us we actually train our recruits to be fully certified firefighters by the time they’re done their probation. They could apply full-time and go into careers with it.”

Manning notes that several former members of Merritt’s firehall are now full-time career firefighters in Richmond and Vancouver.

“It’s a great steppingstone if you’re thinking about going down that path.”

Over the past ten years, Manning believes he has benefitted as much from his service as the community has, owing to the support he has received from others.

“I just want to thank everybody who’s helped me out throughout the years and been there for me and mentored me, it’s been amazing,” Manning said.

“And I’ve hopefully got another ten or 20 more left in me.”