HALIFAX -- For most people, 2020, with all its misfortune, has been a year to forget – Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department can relate. In 2019, the Cape Breton department had a chance to win money through a photo-based contest but passed the opportunity along to a more in need Nova Scotia station; however, soon after, the department fell on tough times. Fortunately enough, the firefighting team recently saw its good deed repaid.

For Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department Chief Steve Binder and his crew, the past year hasn't been easy.

"Our truck caught fire. It didn't destroy the truck, but we had to send it to Montreal to get fixed. We were out of a truck for a good six or seven months," says Binder. "We also lost equipment that insurance didn't cover, so that's out of our pockets. So, we're still trying to recoup that stuff."

But as 2021 approaches, there is some good news.

Earlier in November, the department learned it was the winner of the Fire Hall Photo Contest by AA Munro Insurance – a cash prize of $5,000.

"We were pretty excited about it, after everything we've been through in the past year," says Binder. "It worked out pretty good for us."

In 2019, Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department was on track to win the contest when it passed on the win by asking people to put their support behind Smith's Cove Fire Department, which needed the money more.

Smith's Cove Fire Department Chief Joshua Snyder says Reserve Mines' win is fantastic and is happy to pay it forward and give back the same support. He notes 2019's win benefitted his department significantly.

"Ever since that win, we've doubled in membership, and we have changed so much in our department and in our area," says Snyder. "It has become an even bigger bond in our area."

And the Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department will most definitely benefit from its win.

"We're going to buy some more breathing apparatus and some smaller stuff we lost and couldn't recover through insurance," says Binder.

Binder adds Nova Scotia's firefighters are a tight-knit group no matter where they serve in the province and says the support his department has received during the contest proves that theory.

Meanwhile, both departments plan to celebrate the win together when COVID-19 pandemic restrictions ease, and it is safe to gather in larger groups.