3 Minutes to Live

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Extracted from Facebook - February 2020


There's a bit of a story behind this film. I was assigned to give a 3-hour lecture to the Field Engineering course at Camp Chilliwack around 1961. I worked up a slide series and thought what we really needed was a film that showed the technical aspects of our trade. One thing led to another (as it usually does) and the idea of a standard, purely technical film would be a decided asset not only to our crash rescue training at Borden but would also be a good PR film anytime we were asked to give a lecture to civilian Fire Departments who wanted to know why we claimed to be special because of our triple role. Like you, I was like a turtle. If you don't stick your neck out you'll never get ahead.

I put in a request to the Director of Training Aids. Next thing I knew it received preliminary approval subject to a satisfactory script. I stuck to it being a purely technical film and drew up a script. About this time I was posted to Camp Borden as OC FFS. I completely forgot about the proposed film until a representative from the National Film Board and a Corporal from the RCAF Photo Establishment turned up to discuss the proposed film and look at our facilities. The Corporal insisted that it was beyond their scope so a civilian photographer was suggested. To cut a long story short, a crew turned up a few weeks later.

As I insisted filming must not interfere with the training program, it took a fair bit of scheduling. I assigned Flight Sergeant Cliff Brooks as my liaison representative, couldn't have made a better choice. Cliff selected a team of instructors that could be spared for a couple of weeks and we held back the graduating course to do the actual firefighting. For realism, we imported a stored CF-100 and went at it. A bit of humour crept in when Cliff wanted a live body for realism to be rescued. At a TGIF in the mess, I collared a group of pilots from out Ferry Flight and asked if anyone wanted to be a movie actor. I played down the role until one volunteered and we were in business. Shooting took about a month and didn't interfere with the training schedule, thanks to Cliff Brooks.

When the crew packed up and left there was the usual after shooting reviews which resulted in Cliff and I making several trips to Montreal National Film Board Headquarters. When we were satisfied they informed us it was complete and we could start using it. It came as a complete surprise a few months later when we got a message from the National Committee on Films for Safety advising us our film had won the highest award in the Occupational Films for 1964 and the RCAF was asked to send a representative to accept the award at their annual presentation ceremonies. The powers that be graciously asked me and my wife to represent the RCAF and go to Chicago and accept the award. We accepted of course and the rest is history. I successfully fought off AFHQ's request to send the plaque to them by insisting it was made at the Fire School and should stay there where I hope it still resides. Copies of the film were bought from the NFB by several countries that had Fire Schools and we received several letters of congratulations from them. This was not an individual award but included a team of Instructors from the Fire School headed by Cliff Brooks.