Martel reflects on 50 years of firefighting
George Martel says that it was the excitement of fighting fires that first got him started on what ended up being a 50-year career as a Lennoxville firefighter.
“I had some friends on there,” the retired firefighter said, recalling that it was his best man who first made the connection. “Arlie Fearon, he was the one who got me on.”
Martel started with the Lennoxville volunteer firefighters in 1964 and retired in 2014, and said that he saw a wide variety of big and little incidents along the way. Asked about what interventions stood out, the retired firefighter specifically mentioned the night in September of 2009 when the building housing Lennoxville’s Korvette store burned on Queen Street.
“That was a long night, that one” he said, explaining that the department responded first to an apartment fire on College Street near the corner with Vaudry. Although the apartment fire was brought under control and the building saved, the two fires back-to back made things harder than usual. “We all got home and then got called again,” he continued, adding that the fire that consumed the Korvette was a different beast entirely.
Although people tend to think of fires when it comes to firefighters, Martel pointed out that a lot of calls were actually to respond to car accidents.
“I can't remember them all,” he said. It is clear, however, that what sticks with Martel from his work is the community connection that has been developed and supported through the work of the Lennoxville Volunteer Firemen's’ Association.
“The association worked hard, and it still does,” he said, pointing to years of fundraising that helped to support both the department and community events like the visit of Santa Claus that still takes place every year. “We bought the truck, and the jaws of life. Once upon a time we bought a boat. All of that came from the community” he said.
Back row: Terrill Painter, George Bealieu, Eric Nobes, John Nichol, Sam Bauer, Stewart Deacon, George Martel, Urbain Cryan. Front row: Velmore Lacasse, Leon Fleck, Jim Laramee, Ira Whipple