Chisholm fire department founding member, retires as deputy chief

Chisholm fire department founding member, retires as deputy chief
By Lauren J. Campbell
Almaguin News
Link to article: Chisholm fire department founding member, retires as deputy chief

Chief presentation

The evolution of the Chisholm Township Fire Department continues with the recent retirement of Deputy Chief Garth Pigeau.

“We have been very fortunate to have had Garth as part of our team,” said Chisholm Mayor Leo Jobin during a reception for Pigeau following the Feb. 13 council meeting. “He has always had lots of irons in the fire and has been our instructor for first aid, CPR and WHMIS and has led a wide variety of safety courses.”

Jobin said Pigeau was also the departments go-to guy for finding equipment.

“He’s been our No. 1 whenever we needed anything, even our new truck, Garth was the man who tracked it down for us, and it’s exactly what we needed,” said Jobin.

“All of a sudden the municipality has to have fire fighters up to new standards, but who’s going to be able to go away for weeks of training, and who’s going to pay for it. If the plow operator or the grader operator had to go away and do a course, they’d still get their wages." Garth Pigeau
Pigeau was appointed deputy chief in 2001, but he has been a member of the fire department since day one, over 30 years ago.

“A year or two before the fire department started I was doing the background work for it,” Pigeau said. “I remember Wilfrid Weiskopf and I sitting at the kitchen table and we went through the phone book calling every house in the township where an adult male lived, inviting them out to the first meeting. We had over 40 guys out that night.”

One of those volunteers was Matt Plant, who just last month retired as Chisholm’s fire chief after also serving the township for 30 years.

“There have been some big time changes over those 30 years,” said Pigeau. “We’ve gone from a place where a bunch of neighbours came out to help each other to very regimented instruction with standards that are universal across North America and Europe, and that’s one of the biggest problems a small municipality with a volunteer department is facing. Our customers expect us to be giving the same service as a fire department in Toronto.”

While he says he doesn’t argue that residents deserve that level of service, “we’re not like a big city fire department where the firefighters are paid a salary that covers their training time. Our people are volunteers with full time jobs,” he said.

Pigeau, who has also been an instructor for a number of other northern fire departments from Temagami to Kearney, including Nipissing First Nations, says the intensive training programs today can be scheduled over six consecutive days, at 10 hours a day with some taking up to five weeks to complete.

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