Six-year-old Carter snapped this shot of his philanthropic fishing teammates Johnny, Makayla and Rhea beaming with well-earned pride behind the catch that they donated to the Tofino Volunteer Fire Department. (Carter Nikiforuk photo)

Volunteer firefighters net fishy donation from good-hearted neighbours

“There are a lot of people without work right now.”

A Tofino fisherman recently delivered a much-needed, delicious, donation to local firefighters who have been hit hard by the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When Tofino Fire Chief Brent Baker ran into his friend Johnny Nikiforuk of Tonquin Fishing Charters last month, the pair had a socially-distanced conversation about the economic hardships brought by the absence of tourism in a tourism-based economy.

Following that discussion, Nikiforuk lived up to his locally legendary fishing reputation by teaming up with his partner Rhea Reimer and kids Makayla, 11, and Carter, 6, to pull a couple hundred pounds of fish out of the water and onto the tables of the local fire crew.

“I figured this was an easy route for me to donate something back for all their hard work,” Nikiforuk told the Westerly News. “It saves these people spending their last few cents on groceries and it just seems like something good to do.”

Baker told the Westerly that many of his crew own businesses and work in the town’s usually thriving tourism industry that has been wiped out so far this year by the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving roughly 90 per cent of the 26-member team unemployed.

“There are a lot of people without work right now…We’re doing what we can to take a few different steps to make sure folks have some food on the table and make life easier to pay some bills and those sorts of things,” he said. “I ran into Johnny and we were brainstorming ideas on how to put a bunch of food onto a bunch of peoples’ tables and give them one less thing to have to think about…When you can make life easier for people, you do it.”

He added that the fire department’s call volumes have been reduced by new provincial regulations stemming from the coronavirus, but the stress that comes with the possibility of being called to an emergency at a moment’s notice has increased.

“At this point right now, if that pager goes off, we have to think about a whole new set of possible repercussions: exposure and those sorts of things,” he said. “So, there’s definitely increased stress with that, but people are remaining very positive.”

He added the donation was another example of a fire department that’s blessed with enormous support from its community.

“There’s a huge sense of pride for what we do. When somebody like Johnny steps up like this and offers their unwavering support, it really shows you that there are people out there that truly get what we do and the time commitments and the sacrifices that individuals on the fire department make for the community,” he said. “It’s really nice to have somebody come out and look after you the way that you are willing to look after others.”

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