January 18th, 2021

Fire dept. to send out virtual birthday wishes

By Jensen, Randy on April 18, 2020.

The City’s very own Despicable Me “Gru” impersonator, fire captain Paul Wasylewich, and a crew of his closest firefighting friends, will send a special video via email to the lucky birthday child. Submitted photo

Tim Kalinowski

Lethbridge Herald


The Lethbridge fire department will no longer be offering birthday drive-bys or other special-occasion drive-bys as the pandemic continues and people remain at home in social isolation.

“It was something started by a lot of bigger departments,” explained Deputy Fire Chief Kelly L’Hirondelle. “The last time I talked to some chiefs from the City of Calgary, they had about 7,000 of these trips booked over the next two months. As you can imagine, the City of Calgary has significantly more resources than the City of Lethbridge.”

L’Hirondelle said the department had never had a formal policy on the drive-bys until recently, and some stations had done a few for local residents who called in to shift leaders during the past month. That would no longer be an option, he confirmed.

Considering the Lethbridge fire department also works as the local EMS service provider for the City of Lethbridge, and is expected to answer calls for help where their members may be exposed to COVID-19 regularly, following suit with fire departments in other jurisdictions was not safe or really feasible, L’Hirondelle said.

“Being we are an integrated service, it is a little more difficult for us being all our people could be expected to go to calls as paramedics,” he explained. “To keep our social distancing from the public and keep up with demand, we decided to work with City communications and put a video out instead which we can personalize a little bit especially for the kids stuck at home right now.”

Instead, stated L’Hirondelle, the fire department was working with the City of Lethbridge communications department to set up a virtual video birthday greeting for kids 10 and under while in social isolation during the pandemic remains in effect.

“We can still send something out,” he said, “and hopefully brighten someone’s day, and make it a little more personal. We don’t want to make promises we can’t keep. And we don’t want to put resources in a spot where we’re misallocating anything in any way. But we still want to reach out to the public. This way it keeps it a little bit more manageable for us.”

Those wishing to book a free, personalized, birthday video from the Lethbridge fire department can go to http://www.lethbridge.ca/birthdaywish.

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter

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