Firefighters Ryan McRostie, Richard Young, Jeff Sharpley, Kreg Raistrick, chief Dan Kelly, Al Armstrong of the Winchester fire department. Courtesy Photo

NORTH DUNDAS – The North Dundas Fire Services, made up of four fire departments, Winchester, Morewood, Chesterville and South Mountain held their annual awards event on Mon., Dec. 21, 2020.

Because of COVID-19, the event travelled around to a few fire stations instead of the usual single location event and celebration.

North Dundas Deputy Mayor and fire commissioner, Al Armstrong did the honours of presenting firefighters with awards and service pins.

Dan Villeneuve, Eric Wilson and Ryan McRostie received their five year-pins.

Matt MacGregor, Jeffrey Sharpley, Rick Young and Ryan Hay were given their 10 year-pins, and Kreg Raistrick received his 15 year-pin.

Jim Henderson received his 25-year service pin. He will also receive a 25-year Service Medal from the Fire Marshal of Ontario.

While acknowledging all the work that volunteers do in North Grenville, Armstrong singled out the firefighters as having a special place in the municipality.

“With no disrespect to any of the other volunteer groups we have, this is the only volunteer group that we have that they are not sure if they are coming home or not,” he said.

“They are a different level of volunteers. It is absolutely amazing and humbling to be around people like that,” he said.

Armstrong pointed out that firefighters often take on more volunteer positions in the community, from coaching in sports to fundraising for community events.

Being a firefighter in a rural area is a special experience, the sense of family and community commitment bonds firefighters together.

Jim Henderson of the Chesterville Fire Department is well aware of what it means to be a firefighter for so many years.

Henderson was the first in his family to volunteer to be a firefighter.

“I thought this would be something I would enjoy doing. I was not expecting to be here 25 years.”

He said he enjoys working for the community.

“We are all like that in the fire department. It’s a community base type group of guys.”

Having been a firefighter for a quarter of a century means you have a great deal of experience to share with new recruits.

“I like to help the new guys through,” he said.

Sharing their experiences is important. Local firefighters are also first responders and have to witness all kinds of situations.

What they see and have to do on the job is not always easily forgotten.

“It is a family type group of guys and girls,” he said.

He explained the group is always encouraged to talk things out if there are any issues.

Over the year firefighters have had to adjust to many changes. One big adjustment is to the equipment they have to use and the training they are expected to do on a regular basis.

Working as a team is crucial to safely fight a fire or help someone at a car accident.

“We always train for the worst-case scenario,” said Henderson.

After 25 years as a firefighter in his community, he said he would not do anything differently.

In many ways, just like other firefighters, their sense of family includes their community.

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