UPDATED: Fire Chief announces 2015 retirement

UPDATED: Fire Chief announces 2015 retirement - Sault Ste. Marie Fire Services Chief Marcel Provenzano is retiring.

He'll leave Jan. 31 after 33 years with the fire department.City of Sault Ste. Marie Fire Chief Marcel Provenzano announced Wed., Aug. 13, 2014 that he will be retiring Jan. 31, 2015 after 33 years with the service. (STEPH CROSIER/ QMI AGENCY/ THE SAULT STAR)

“I often miss the adrenaline rush that you get from being able to jump on a fire truck and go help somebody who is in their greatest time of need,” Provenzano told The Sault Star Wednesday. “And in my job now, I'll miss some of my colleagues, not only here, but across the province.”

Leaving the fire service is not like punching out for good from the typical office job.

“You spend long hours with people that you develop relationships with,” Provenzano said. “They can be your buddy at work, and at the scene you count on them with your life.”

He joined the fire depatment at age 23. At the time, the service was looking to hire mechanical tradesmen. Provenzano had just graduated Centennial College with two certificates - marine mechanics and motorcycle mechanics. His first day on the job was Feb. 1, 1982.

“Then it was on-the-job training,” Provenzano said. “Theoretical and practical training. It was done here by the fire services.”

The call he remembers most came after he had less than two years on the job. Two people died in a fire on Queen Street East in December 1983. Four businesses, including Mary's Lunch, were destroyed.

“It was one of my first really big fires that I attended,” Provenzano said. “It was quite interesting to see the strength and volatility of that fire. It really intrigued me; the different aspects of fire, sometimes you just don't have enough water to put the fire out.”

Provenzano had a reality check that day.Maybe he wasn't as invincible as he thought. He entered the second floor alone as the fire was spreading. The fire went out of control.

“It always stood out in my mind as one of the worst battles that I've been engaged with as far as my firefighting career's concerned,” Provenzano said. “You realize there are powers far greater than you, that can consume you in a heartbeat.”

But still, attending fires will always be an adrenaline rush mixed with anxiety, excitement, and satisfaction.

“It's amazing how much strength you have at times that you don't realize you have, how much stamina you have,” Provenzano said of attending a call. “Its a combination of physical skills and mental skills that allow you to overcome of these occurrences that ordinary people would never see.”

Born and raised in Sault Ste. Marie, Provenzano wouldn't want to live anywhere else with his wife, Paula. The couple has two children, Erika and Lucas.

Provenzano said family goes through a firefighter's mind during every call.

“You apply a new level of caution,” he said. “Especially in certain circumstances where a fire is burning out of control. You know you have to do your job, but at the same token you also want to go back home and see your family.”

He recalls holding Erika and Lucas for the first time and the flood of horror stories, injuries, illnesses and deaths that come with his chosen career.

“So when you're holding that baby you're thinking, 'I just hope I'm not one of those statistics,'” Provenzano said. “For the most part that is a real small percentage of occurrences, but you're in the business and it can happen.

“You are exposed to a lot of risks, but you get comfortable with that after a while. You have to because that is what you signed up for.”

Though Provenzano has been off the floor for over eight years, up until the day he left thoughts of his family still weighed heavily in his mind.

“You come close, I've been close,” Provenzano said. “In different situations where you think 'Wow, I just about bit it there.'”

He advanced through the ranks becoming captain in November 2001. Provenzano was appointed assistant fire chief in April 2006. He was hired to succeed Lynn McCoy. Retiring wasn't an impulsive decision for Provenzano.

“I thought this through for quite some time,” he said. “Leaving a place of employment that takes up a large percentage of your time doesn't come easy.”

But Provenzano already has plans for his free time. He looks forward to heading up to the family camp in Goulais for some biking, kayaking, four-wheeling, fishing, and even some “backyard guitar playing.”

“You get to a point in life where there are other things that I want to do,” Provenzano said.

He still has plenty of work to do with five-and-a-half more months on the job. A hiring committee will be established to find his replacement, and he hopes to have a role in the decision making process.

“The ideal candidate will have a strong sense of community, has the leadership traits that would recognize that employees are the most valuable assets in any organization, and he has a sense of the team concept,” said Provenzano.

“We're all working together here to achieve the same goals and objectives and provide the best level of service that we can for the corporation and for the community.”

Link to article: UPDATED: Fire Chief announces 2015 retirement

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