MISSISSAUGA—The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs held its 2022 memorial service for fire chiefs who have passed away in the past couple of years. A total of 28 firefighters from around Ontario were memorialized, including three late fire chiefs from Manitoulin: Mike Steele of the Gore Bay-Gordon/Barrie Island Joint Fire Department, Merv Gilchrist of Billings Township and John Reid of the Municipality of Central Manitoulin.
“It was a really nice service, especially since there was no funeral for my father (due to the pandemic) so it is the closest to a service we had for my dad,” said Stephanie Steele, who along with her brother Connor attended the memorial service. “It was a nice way to commemorate my dad and it showcases how involved he was in the community and how important the community was to him. It gave me the closure I needed, so it was very special.”
“I didn’t go to the service, but my daughter Angela and her fiancée took videos for me,” said Roxana Reid (wife of the late Fire Chief John Reid).
“It was very nice, they (OFC) honoured quite a few fire chiefs who have passed on,” said Ms. Reid. “And the picture they used when they were memorializing John was the one that was used at the memorial held in Providence Bay for him.”
“Angela said it was a really good ceremony,” said Ms. Reid.
Duncan Sinclair, deputy fire chief on the Gore Bay-Gordon/Barrie Island Fire Department attended the ceremony. “Three of our former Island police chiefs were recognized at the service.” The service was held on May 7, as part of the OAFC annual conference at the International Centre in Mississauga. “I carried the helmets for Mike (Steele) and John Reid during the ceremony,” he said. He pointed out he would have done the same for Mervin Gilchrist, but this was carried by another firefighter.
“There were a total of 28 fire chiefs honoured at the ceremony. It has been two years since this service has been held, due to COVID,” said Mr. Sinclair. “It was a short ceremony, but very powerful.”
Mark Tishman, program and policy analyst of the OAFC, told The Expositor, “the OAFC memorial service is an annual event held to honour the chief fire officers who have passed away since out last in-person conference. It is an extremely moving service. The service has many special guests in attendance. This year’s service included the Niagara Falls Honour Guard, the Ontario Fire Service Pipes and Drums and Harbourtown Sound Choir. This is our most revered and attended event of the year. The service was conducted by the Niagara Regional Fire Chiefs Association. The OAFC is extremely grateful for their continued support.”
“As part of the service, the master of ceremonies read the name of a deceased fire chief, and a picture was shown on a big screen behind the podium. A chief officer then goes up to the front of the stage and speaks to the sergeant at arms and the bugler takes a gold helmet from the officer and the helmet is laid on the table on stage for each fire chief memorialized. A bell is then rung three times as a salute and final goodbye,” said Mr. Tishman. He noted the over 200-year history of the fire bell, which is rung at the start and at the end of firefighter shifts and also when a firefighter has passed.
As part of the ceremony, a firefighters’ prayer is read, and a fire chief’s prayer as well. Other traditional elements include a colour party, the national anthem, roll call of deceased members, last post, lament, reveille, memorial address, hymn, God Save the Queen, the benediction and march off of the colours.