First annual firefighter awards in Muskoka Lakes
MUSKOKA LAKES - The first annual firefighter awards were also a passing on of the baton from one assistant fire chief to another.
Harry Baranik officially begins his new position in January but was warmly welcomed by Muskoka Lakes firefighters at an awards ceremony Wednesday, Dec. 12. At the same ceremony, Jim Schneider, former assistant fire chief who retired in June, received a special award from the Ontario Fire Chief’s Association for his 37 years of service with the fire departments he’s served with.
“I wish Chief Baranik all the best in his new job in my old post,” he said.
The recently retired assistant chief said he has been “taking it easy” and jokes about the full beard he’s sporting now that he doesn’t have to keep it shaven to wear a mask.
Richard Hayes, fire chief for Muskoka Lakes, said he hopes the awards ceremony will become an annual tradition.
“This is a great opportunity for us to recognize all the work that’s gone on this year,” he said.
Muskoka Lakes has 10 fire stations and a boathouse scattered throughout the township where firefighters meet when they receive the call on their pager. From there they head to the fire or accident. Hayes said the average firefighter in the township will attend between 60 and 90 fires or accidents in a year
During the ceremony, awards were given to firefighters who took training to work toward the new provincial requirements for volunteer firefighters, as well as long-service firefighters who had served with the force for five, 10, 15, 20, 30, 40 and 50 years.
Murray Kelly, district chief for the Foot’s Bay/Glen Orchard Fire Department, was awarded for 40 years of service.
He said he has noticed big changes in his 43 years of fire fighting.
“Everything is changing,” he said. “Cars are becoming faster. The materials they’re made of are harder, so we have to improve on our equipment.”
He said they need new equipment because what they used to use will not cut through car parts made of titanium.
He said as houses are built cheaper and quicker to erect, they also collapse more quickly, leaving firefighters very little time to extinguish a fire before it’s too late.
“The materials in homes now are more toxic,” he said. “The materials that they’re made of do not have the strength to withstand fire. You used to have buildings that you could have a fire and in 15 minutes you could still walk in the building to find stuff. Now … unless you’re right on the scene, the chances of putting the fire out is pretty remote,” he said.
The biggest fire Kelly has seen was when a tanker truck rolled over and went up in flames. He was involved when a Sea-Doo launched out of the water onto a boat, pinning someone underneath it, and rescued people who crashed into trees on snowmobile trails.
One of the highlights of the evening was a new firefighting award given in the honour of former fire chief Charlie Cameron, who recently passed away. Cameron was the first fire co-ordinator for Muskoka Lakes and the father of current district fire chief Greg Cameron.
The Charlie Cameron Memorial Award is presented to a firefighter who has good attendance, completes tasks assigned without question, leads in a calm, cool manner, updates his training, participates in community events, and has gained respect of fellow firefighters.
This year the award was given to Matt McDermott from the Port Carling station.