Nfld. & Labrador

Grade 5 student takes over command of St. John's Regional Fire Department for a day

What's it like to be chief for a day? Fifth grader Selina Oldford had the chance to find out.

Don't be fooled by her exterior, she's a tough boss

Selina Oldford won a contest for kids between the ages of seven and 12 to be the chief of St. john's Regional Fire Department for one day. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"Eight-four, this is Chief Oldford."

Selina Oldford took the radio in her hand and called back to central command. With a little help on the lingo, she told the dispatcher they were on their way to the station.

With that, the big red tanker pulled away from her school and the fifth grader's day as fire chief began.

Oldford was the winner of a citywide fire safety contest, with the prize being a seat at the top of St. John's Regional Fire Department ranks for one day.

She was judged the best of 500 entries, after drawing a comic showing a family creating a fire escape plan and putting it into action. In the comic, their house actually caught fire the next day and they got out safely because of their plan.

In her comic, she drew a caricature of Chief Sherry Colford, giving advice on fire safety and the importance of escape plans. On Friday, she got to meet the real chief, and take over her job for a while.

"I think it's going to be very exciting. It's going to be really fun," Oldford said during a stop at her school, St. Francis of Assisi in Outer Cove. 

She was accompanied at the school by several firefighters, who presented her with a variety of gifts.

"They gave me a lot of prizes," she said. "Like a bunch of gift cards and they gave me $100 in cash, which I need."

The contest was part of the annual Fire Prevention Week festivities. Along with the contest, members of fire departments all over the province are going to schools, teaching fire safety tips to children and conducting fire drills.

As for Oldford, one of the best parts of the day was following in the footsteps of her grandfather, a retired firefighter from Grand Falls-Windsor.

And riding in the front seat of the firetruck — since she's not normally allowed in the front seat.

"No, I'm not tall enough."

As for her management style, Oldford is a hard-nosed chief. When asked how many raises she was going to hand out, she didn't hesitate in her reply.


Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Katie Breen


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