Vol­un­teers lauded for decades of ser­vice

South Shore Breaker - - Wheels - AN­DREW RANKIN THE CHRON­I­CLE HER­ALD

Fire­fighter Dou­glas Wolfe wasn’t sure what made him more proud: the medal for 65 years of ser­vice or that he had re­ceived it from his son.

“If you were to ask me what my big­gest ac­com­plish­ment has been as a fire­fighter, it would be my son,” said Wolfe. “He’s so ded­i­cated, gone through our ju­nior fire­fight­ers pro­gram and I’ve watched him be­come a very fine fire chief of our depart­ment. I’m very proud of him.”

The feel­ing is mu­tual.

Chief Christo­pher Wolfe be­stowed his 82-year-old fa­ther with the hon­our at their North Queens Fire As­so­ci­a­tion Fire Pre­ven­tion Week ban­quet in Cale­do­nia ear­lier this month. At that mo­ment he was nearly over­come by emo­tion.

“It’s quite an ac­com­plish­ment for him,” re­called Christo­pher. “Sixty-five years is quite a span to ded­i­cate to a vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tion as im­por­tant as our fire depart­ment. I can’t tell you what a priv­i­lege it was to hon­our my dad that way.”

Dou­glas wasn’t the only mem­ber of the as­so­ci­a­tion who re­ceived the same dis­tinc­tion that night. Thomas Cush­ing, 78, was the other re­cip­i­ent of the Cana­dian Vol­un­teer Fire Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion Mu­nic­i­pal Long Ser­vice Medal.

Both agree that they got into fire­fight­ing to con­trib­ute to their com­mu­nity. From there, it got in their blood. They’re still at it, serv­ing as the as­so­ci­a­tion’s ra­dio op­er­a­tors and equip­ment main­te­nance guys. The pair joined the as­so­ci­a­tion shortly af­ter the as­so­ci­a­tion was founded in 1939 and went on to rise in the ranks, wit­ness­ing the North Queens Fire Depart­ment be­ing re­built three times dur­ing their ten­ure.

“I don’t know what it is, you get into it and then you stay,” said Dou­glas, who’s served as depart­ment res­cue cap­tain. “With fire­fight­ers, you’re all broth­ers and sis­ters, you know. No mat­ter where you are a fire­fighter will rec­og­nize an­other fire­fighter. We all kind of help one an­other and try to do what we can for our com­mu­nity.

“It’s a mix­ture you know, of bad mo­ments and good mo­ments when I look back on my ca­reer. There’s mo­ments when you laugh and mo­ments when you cry. But the good times out­weigh the bad and I’m proud I stuck it out.”

Same goes for Cush­ing, a fa­ther of four daugh­ters, who was barely a teenager when he joined the depart­ment.

“I went to help the com­mu­nity to do what­ever, when­ever,” said Cush­ing, a former depart­ment deputy chief and chief. “I got hun­kered down and stayed and I’m still there. As long as I can,

I’m go­ing to hang. But it’s been an ab­so­lute priv­i­lege.

“I still get that rush when you hear the fire alarm, that feel­ing like you can ben­e­fit some peo­ple. Yes, I have seen some sad things, a lot of ups and downs. “One of

their proud­est mem­o­ries stems back roughly 30 years ago when the depart­ment saved the his­toric Al­ton house in Cale­do­nia.

“The bell tower caught on fire but we saved it, in fact we saved all of Cale­do­nia corner that day. We felt pretty good about that.”

Christo­pher char­ac­ter­izes the pair as “the real deal.”

“They’ve seen it all. I’m happy that they’re stay­ing on.”

He also says their de­vo­tion re­flects a wider com­mu­nity com­mit­ment to the as­so­ci­a­tion that has not waned over the years.

“Here in Cale­do­nia I can’t say much has changed. We’re just in the process of buy­ing a $700,000 tanker.

“We al­ready have two pay­ments to­ward that and two more pay­ments to come up with. That shows you right there what a small com­mu­nity can do when peo­ple chip in. Out here our com­mu­nity is be­hind us 100 per cent.”

The as­so­ci­a­tion’s 24-mem­ber ladies aux­il­iary re­cently con­trib­uted $25,000 and an­other $10,000 came from its bingo com­mit­tee.

The as­so­ci­a­tion cur­rently boasts 46 fire­fight­ers and its ju­nior fire depart­ment has 12 mem­bers that will grad­u­ate to the se­nior ranks at age 19.

“I’m proud to be chief and most of all my dad taught me a lot about re­spect and the fact that ev­ery­one has a role to play.

“If it’s in your blood you just don’t give up. He and Tom will keep go­ing un­til they can’t go any­more and I don’t dis­cour­age that at all.”

Christo­pher Wolfe

North Queens Fire As­so­ci­a­tion mem­bers Thomas Cush­ing, left, and Dou­glas Wolfe were re­cently hon­oured for 65 years of ser­vice to their depart­ment.

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