Local firefighters honoured for 25 years of service

Local firefighters honoured for 25 years of service
By Ryen Veldhuis
BayToday
Link to article: Local firefighters honoured for 25 years of service

All the personnel who received an award Monday night. Photo Supplied.

A quarter-century is a long time to work any career, but to serve a community, for better or for worse under the duress of emergency calls is another thing entirely.

Monday night, saw the recognition of this in the city of North Bay, as well over a dozen emergency responders were celebrated for their 25 years of service in the community.

“The province of Ontario developed the Long Service Medal in 1971 to recognize firefighters who had served for 25 years in the first responder profession,” Ontario Fire Marshal Ross Nicholls said. “It’s critically important that we recognize our first responders, they are the women and men who are out there 24/7, 12 months a year, plus 30 degrees, minus 30 degrees, in baking sun or driving in the snow to keep us safe.”

Fire Marshal Nicholls said that night, 18 firefighters were recognized, with a total of over 400 years of service in the community of North Bay.

North Bay Fire Chief Jason Whiteley said it was excellent for local firefighters to be formally recognized—especially with the Provincial Fire Marshal present. It was an opportunity for children of their personnel to feel immense pride for their parent to be formally recognized for their efforts, as well as an opportunity to recognize the spouses of the personnel for the support they provide after they get home from managing challenging incidents.

“They are out every evening, dealing with all sorts of different emergencies from car accidents to house fires,” Chief Whiteley said. “Last week we had crews who were faced with three immediate rescues and a fourth who unfortunately passed away. We have highs and lows and so many emotions go through a job like this and when you put a career to it, it’s quite substantial to recognize people for the effort in protecting the community.”

And while the medal has been around since the ‘70s, the role of a firefighter has expanded, Fire Marshal Nicholls said, evolving with the times and meeting the needs as seen necessary.

“The tasking that firefighters are involved in now has really expanded over the last 50 years,” he said. “They’re not only doing simple fires, and I put quotations on simple fires, but they get called upon in the investigations of clandestine labs or even called in response to a terrorist act here in Ontario.”

He said even in Northern Ontario it’s important to recognize some of the unique challenges faced by local firefighters, from blackflies to snowstorms so vicious they’d bring larger municipalities down south to a grinding halt; there is no shortage of obstacles to be mounted.

And while they face physical dangers and challenges, they also face emotional ones with the magnitude of some of their encounters.

“Our first responders see things and do things that the general public doesn’t want to see or do or quite simply can’t see and do,” Fire Marshal Nicholls said. “And over time that can pile up, so one of the things I’m going to mention tonight is the importance of talking if you aren’t okay. It’s critically important to reach out and talk to somebody about it.”

"The ceremony is an opportunity for the provincial and federal government to recognize the dedicated and distinguished service of our personnel to the City of North Bay," added Deputy Chief Greg Saunders. "Personnel received medals for either 20, 25, or 30 years of service.  It was an opportunity for children of our personnel feel immense pride for their father to be formally recognized for their efforts.  It was also an opportunity to recognize the spouses of our personnel for the support they provide after we get home from managing challenging incidents."

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