The Ontario Fire Chiefs Secretaries Association began as the Metro Fire Chiefs Secretaries Association and was founded by Glenna Somerville (City of York) in 1989.
Starting with six women from six municipalities consisting of York, North York, East York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and the City of Toronto (which amalga-mated in 1978) the group met monthly at the Chelsea Hotel in Toronto.
Word spread outside of the City, and other secretaries from all over Ontario were interested in networking with each other.
The OAFC was approached and asked permission to form the Ontario Fire Chiefs Secretaries Association, it was immediately approved.
John Bateman, then Fire Marshal of Ontario, was informed of the newly formed Association and offered the Ontario College Facilities for one weekend each September free of charge.
The Association continues to grow.
The Founding of the OFCSA
By Glenn Somerville
I joined the Borough (later became the City of York) which was one of the 6 separate municipalities that were amalgamated in 1978. They were York, North York, East York, Etobicoke, Scarborough and the City of Toronto. At that time each municipality maintained their own Fire Department. I was the first lady employed by the York Fire Department and during my 15 years with the Department, I served with 4 different Fire Chiefs. One of them, Chief Bernard Moyle later became the Fire Marshal of Ontario. The Chiefs’ of the six Departments formed a permanent committee, named the Metro Fire Chiefs and met monthly, with each Chief taking a turn in hosting the meeting in their own municipality. When they met in York, I would always set up some kind of a luncheon, which they seemed to enjoy. One of the Chiefs said because of my kindness he thought it would be nice if I actually met his Secretary for dinner one night. I called Corinne in the East York Fire Department and while speaking with her I thought it might be a nice idea if all of the Chiefs’ six secretaries met at the Chelsea Hotel in downtown Toronto. It was such a success we decided to make it a monthly occasion and we called ourselves the Metro Fire Chiefs Secretaries Association.
Apparently, other departments heard about our little group and I received a call from the Chief in Chatham inquiring as to why his secretary was not invited to the meetings. I spoke with Chief Moyle and asked if there was any way (without breaking rules) I could start an Ontario Fire Chiefs Secretaries Association. He suggested I write to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) explaining what I wanted to do and ask for their approval. I drafted a letter to the President of the OAFC in June and very quickly got the approval of the OAFC to proceed.
Our first meeting was planned for September so we had to move fast. I drafted a letter, had it approved and the six metro fire chiefs secretaries were responsible for sending out 10 letters each to random departments in the Province. Within the week my desk was flooded with replies from many department secretaries wanting to join the Association but had already planned their holidays for the year and consequently would not be able to attend the September meeting. I worked very hard to draft the Terms of Reference for presentation at the first meeting.
I was fortunate that every Chief I worked with always took me to the Ontario Fire College (OFC) graduation ceremonies whenever someone from our department was graduating from a course. At one of the receptions, John Bateman, the Fire Marshal of Ontario joined our group for refreshments. I told Mr. Bateman about our plans to form an Ontario Fire Chiefs Secretaries Association and how each secretary would be responsible for paying their own way. Not only did he enthusiastically embrace the idea, he also offered us the OFC for a weekend in September of each year. Mr. Bateman’s generosity and foresight overcame a major hurdle for the Association by providing the ideal setting for our first meeting at no cost to the participants.
18 secretaries attended the first meeting on very short notice (September 1989). There was no staff at the OFC on weekends so we improvised and sometimes lived on Tim Horton’s coffee and donuts. On the Sunday after the meeting, Garnet Schenck, the Principal of the College had kitchen staff come in and they prepared a wonderful luncheon for us. This was our first conference and I invited Doctor Bella Streiner, from Metro Ambulance in Toronto to be the guest speaker. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed her presentation. We took a survey at the end of the session and it was agreed by all that we form our own secretaries association and meet at the OFC every September. This would give the Fire Chiefs secretaries the profile and education they needed to perform in this very important role.
After a few years, things improved immeasurably, the OFC staff came in on weekends and served regular meals and provided guest speakers and other much needed support. Support for the Association continued to grow over the years as the Fire Chiefs and Fire Marshal Bernard Moyle understood the importance of providing high quality and continuing learning experiences for fire service secretaries/administrative assistants that were essential to keep them current and knowledgeable in their respective roles.
Initially, the secretaries attending the annual meeting paid for their own travel expenses. Things quickly changed and with the support of the OFC and the Fire Chiefs, the secretaries now receive a similar level of support as any other group attending the Fire College. We have found our rightful place as an important and integral part of the fire service.
On a personal note, I am deeply indebted to all those who have faithfully supported the OFCSA from its inception 20 years ago until today. It is a success story of working together to achieve a common goal. I am very proud to be associated with such amazing people and to have played a role in helping to establish this wonderful association of secretaries.