The challenges and rewards of a part-time department
BY SCOTT CARMICHAEL
News Staff South Glengarry Fire Services Chief Vic Leroux has been impressed by what he’s seen from both his personnel and their interaction with the community since taking over the position last summer.
“The best element of this past year has been the opportunity to work together with the members of the service, township staff, council and township residents,” Chief Leroux, a longtime Williamstown resident, told The News recently.
“The support that the department has in this community is tremendous... overwhelming, really.”
Mr. Leroux was appointed township fire chief in June 2014 – replacing the retired chief, Harold Harvey – following a more than five-year retirement from the Cornwall Fire Department.
He had 30 years of service with the Seaway City department, and was chief there from May 2007 to December 2008, as well as deputy-chief for two years prior to that.
A Cornwall native, Mr. Leroux began his fire services career as a probationary city firefighter before climbing the ranks to eventually become chief.
He said making the switch from the city fire service to the township department wasn’t all that difficult.
“It was actually a very smooth transition, for the most part, because I’ve lived in this community for well over 20 years and I was very familiar with what the South Glengarry Fire Service had to offer, as far as the men, and equipment,” Chief Leroux explained.
“And that made coming to work an easy task.”
However, he concedes that leading a slightly smaller, nonfull-time fire department – whose members he refers to as “part-time firefighters” instead of voluntary, “because we all work under the same legislation as professional, full-time career firefighters”– does have its challenges, particularly from a financial standpoint.
“We have to provide professional, full-time-like service, with a part-time budget, and that’s not always an easy thing to do...due to the economics and the issues that we face because of our jurisdictions, our demographics and the tax base,” said the chief.
“And those are difficulties that all volunteer fire services are faced with on a day-to-day basis.”
Nonetheless, Chief Leroux knows the pros of administrating the South Glengarry Fire Service far outweigh the cons.
“This is a very communityminded group, and that makes my job very rewarding, and fun,” he said.
The South Glengarry Fire Service consists of approximately 125 men and women at five stations – in Glen Walter (Station #1), Martintown (#2), Williamstown (#3), Lancaster (#4) and North Lancaster (#5), respectively – whose territory covers roughly 296,000 acres (almost 120,000 hectares), or 605 square kilometres.
It serves a population of more than 12,300 residents, and had a combined capital and operating budget of $1.1 million in 2014.