West End firefighters recognized for dedicated volunteer service

A special firemen’s reception for members of the Gore Bay-Gordon/Barrie Island volunteer fire department, and its former fire chief Mike Steele, was hosted last week in Gordon. Mark Derry, left, representing the Ontario Fire Marshal’s Office, presented a special award to Mike Steele for his 23 years of dedicated, exemplary service to the fire department.

GORDON—The invaluable service provided by volunteers with the joint Gore Bay and Gordon/Barrie Island volunteer fire department was recognized at a special firemen’s reception last week.

“There is no more important service provided in a community than firefighting, as you provide protection for all residents,” stated Gore Bay Mayor Ron Lane at the ceremony held February 13.

“I see this as a very important night, as this is the first time we have formally recognized the members of the fire department for the tremendous work they do,” said Mayor Lane.

“I would like to welcome everyone here this evening,” said Carrie Lewis, administrator for the Gore Bay-Gordon/Barrie Island fire department. She introduced members of Gore Bay and Gordon/Barrie Island council, as well as “MPP Michael Mantha, who will help in the recognition of the firefighters, and Mark Derry, a representative of the Ontario Fire Marshal.”

“Next, can I have all the volunteer firefighters come to the front of the hall,” said Ms. Lewis, introducing Mike Steele (retired fire chief), new Fire Chief Michael Addison, Deputy Chief Duncan Sinclair, Captain John Baker, Lieutenant Mike Zegil and firefighters Fred Heinen, Raymond Baumann and James Martin. Those named, but not in attendance, included Cole McLaughlin, Joel Bie, Richard Lapointe, Andy Campbell, Shane Ingram and Ocean Borton.

“We are all here to provide some very important recognition of our firefighters and appreciation for outgoing Fire Chief Mike Steele,” said Ms. Lewis.

“I am just really happy to be here for recognition of these firefighters,” said Mr. Mantha. He stated that as firefighters they have to sacrifice time with their families to take extensive training as well as respond to fires. “You do this work to make sure your community is taken care of.”

“I really appreciate all that you do for your community, as they do, in making your communities safer,” said Mr. Mantha. “When you put on your boots, clothes and hats in responding to a fire, you have already put a lot of work into being ready for the call. All of you make a huge sacrifice and that is why an evening like this is so important.”

“Again, thank you so very much for taking care of your neighbours—your community. It is very much appreciated,” said Mr. Mantha.

Mr. Derry, on behalf of the OFM, made a special presentation to Mr. Steele. “It is a pleasure to be here tonight. This is one of the fun parts of the job. It is an honour for me to be here and help recognize Mike Steele for his 23 years of dedicated service to the fire department.” He presented Mr. Steele with an award on behalf of the OFM for his loyal, exemplary service.

Lee Hayden said, “it is my pleasure as the chair of the joint fire board to welcome you all here this evening and I ask (Gordon/Barrie Island) Reeve (Jack) Brady and Mayor Ron Lane to join me to make a special presentation.”

“There is a long serving member of the Gore Bay Fire department that we would like to pay very special and deserving recognition to,” said Mr. Hayden. “Mike Steele, our recently retired fire chief, has been a volunteer firefighter for 23 years. In 2003 he was appointed fire chief, a position he has held for the past 10 years until retiring this past December.”

“Mike has always been praised by his colleagues for having a calm and level head at a fire scene and is a trusted and reliable leader,” explained Mr. Hayden. “In addition to firefighting, for many years now Mike and his team have provided the manpower and expertise to put on the fireworks displays that we all enjoy in Gore Bay.”

Mr. Steele served on the joint fire board when Gordon/Barrie Island and Gore Bay partnered to create the joint volunteer fire department, said Mr. Hayden. “During this process his knowledge and input was a huge benefit to the municipalities.”

“On that note, Mike, could I ask you to come up so that we may present you with this special gift, which is a token of our appreciation for your years of service as a volunteer firefighter and fire chief,” added Mr. Hayden.

Mr. Lane continued, “Six years ago when I was on (Gore Bay) council and fire committee, the OFM did a report on our fire department and showed a weak picture—there were problems that needed to be addressed, the fire hall did not pass and it seemed we were no longer able to provide fire services in town. Major decisions had to be made. We were very fortunate to be able to pool with Gordon/Barrie Island and be provided with the leadership that Mike gave the new fire department. The fire department and services became something we are all very proud of.”

Mr. Addison, in making a presentation to Mr. Steele, thanked him for his leadership and guidance. “I’ve been with the fire department for 18-and-a-half years and I can tell you Mike has been calm no matter the situation. This is very important, because when a fire situation occurs many things can occur.”

From some difficult times in the past, “we now have a fire department we are all proud of and the morale of our members has never been better,” said Mr. Addison, also acknowledging the support Mr. Derry has provided.

Mr. Addison, along with Mr. Hayden, then presented five-year service awards to local firefighters John Baker and Fred Heinen.

“As clerks our job is with the administrative part of the fire department,” said Ms. Lewis. “I want to make a presentation along with Annette (Clarke, Gore Bay clerk) to three people who have been very helpful to us: Mike Steele, Mike Addison and Duncan Sinclair.” As well, gifts of appreciation were also presented to all firefighters.

“I would like to thank Carrie for this reception tonight, this was her idea,” said Mr. Addison. “It is truly nice as firefighters to be recognized for what we do.”

Tom Sasvari