By Ron Giofu
The Amherstburg Fire Department paid tribute to nine retirees and eight long-serving firefighters as part of their annual banquet.
The retirement and awards banquet was held Saturday night with the retirees alone amounting for 264 years of service to the community. Retirees included former deputy chief James Ouellette (46 Years of Service), Frank Beaudoin (45 years), Kenneth Tytgat (35 years), Mike Dikan (30 years), Brian Gibb (26 years), Rodney Ferriss (23 years), Marcy Laframboise (21 years), Rob Taylor (20 years) and Russell Deslippe (18 years).
Also honoured was Al Reaume, who spent his last official day as fire chief Saturday night before re-entering retirement. Essex MP Tracey Ramsey thanked Reaume for the work he put in during his two years as chief and all of the award recipients as well.
Top (left to right): Captain Brad Brush, Firefighter Rob Taylor, Firefighter Tom Morand, Captain Jerry Ferguson, Captain Frank Beaudoin, Captain Paul Bastien, Mayor Aldo DiCarlo, Essex MP Tracey Ramsey. Bottom (left to right): Captain Rick Wismer, District Chief Ken Rose, Firefighter Brian Gibb, Firefighter Marcy Laframboise, Firefighter Ken Tytgat, Chief Al Reaume, Firefighter Rodney Ferriss.
“I thank you for your service to the community,” said Ramsey.
Ramsey also thanked the families, noting all the time and sacrifices they have to endure in addition to the sacrifices made by the firefighters themselves.
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo noted that Reaume was already retired when the town called him to assume command of the department two years ago when it was being restructured. He also praised the firefighters for the job they did during those difficult circumstances.
“You have remained focused, dedicated and professional,” DiCarlo said.
DiCarlo also reiterated what Reaume told the River Town Times in the April 12 issue. Reaume’s quote was: “The firefighters here are phenomenal. They’ll give you 100 per cent. They are doing the job for the right reasons.”
Leading is not always glamorous, the mayor added, and said Reaume came to Amherstburg in less than ideal circumstances. Despite the workload or challenges Reaume was faced with, DiCarlo said the chief was “unflappable” and did his job professionally.
“Amherstburg is a better place because of you and we wish you well as you go back into retirement,” DiCarlo told Reaume.
Chief Al Reame presents Capt. Rick Wismer (right) with the Fire Chief’s Medal of Excellence during the Amherstburg Fire Department’s award banquet April 22.
Reaume also presented Capt. Rick Wismer with the Fire Chief’s Medal of Excellence. Wismer was getting ready to head to a medical call in the early morning hours of July 15, 2016 when he looked across the road from Station 2 and saw a house on fire. The residents were still sleeping because, as Reaume stated, the fire started in the garage and went into the attic thus going above where the working smoke and carbon monoxide alarms were situated. Wismer checked the home and was able to get the family out safely.
Wismer said it goes to show what the firefighters learn and that they fall back on their training in emergency situations.
“It’s very special,” he said, of receiving the medal. “Some people go a career without receiving something like this. I wasn’t expecting it for sure.”
Receiving the award from Reaume was special as well, Rick Wismer added, with Reaume being “like a father figure to us.”
Rick Wismer also received his 20 year service medal with other medals and bars going to Paul Bastien (45 years), Jerry Ferguson (35 years), Bradley Brush (30 years), Dikan (30 years), Tom Morand (20 years), Ken Rose (20 years) and Taylor (20 years).
Rose, a district chief, and Capt. Randy Wismer paid tribute to the other retirees. Randy Wismer said Beaudoin has been through many changes over the years and said his life is “honestly a remarkable life of service” and one that people should aspire to. Wismer called Ferriss someone who was honest and bold and also “a welcome sight to see on fire calls when I was promoted to captain.”
Laframboise was Amherstburg’s first female firefighter and Wismer noted that while there were challenges, she met them and became an important asset. He praised Laframboise for her work at medical calls.
Rose called Dikan a “wizard” who knew the capabilities of what could be done. Deslippe is a “super loyal guy” who was very knowledgeable and a person who “had your back” at fire calls.
Tytgat proved to be a “very versatile guy” at fire calls, Rose continued, and was also a good person when it came to organizing fire safety initiatives and Christmas parties. Gibb is funny, endearing and a “jokester” while Taylor was a “real pro” who took special interest in auto extrication and sharing his knowledge with his fellow firefighters.
The retirees in attendance made a few comments of their own, with Tytgat thanking all of his colleagues at Station 3. He added the spouses and families deserved a lot of credit as well for the sacrifices they make.
“We’ve got a good group of firefighters at all three fire stations,” said Gibb, adding the residents can be proud of the dedication of their firefighters.
Beaudoin said he was proud and honoured to work with his fellow firefighters and said his career went by quickly.
“It goes by fast, especially when you enjoy what you do,” said Beaudoin.
Laframboise said she was proud to be able to work with the Amherstburg Fire Department.
“It was an honour to have met you all and work with you all,” said Laframboise.
Taylor also praised the firefighters and encouraged everyone to “keep up the good work” while Ferriss said he will have nothing but good memories from his time on the fire department.
Bruce Montone, the new chief of the Amherstburg Fire Department, said he was struck by the “sense of family” that exists within the department.
“I am very honored to have been given the opportunity to work with you and earn my place hopefully as part of your family,” Montone told the large crowd at the AMA Sportsmen Club. “I hope very much to do that.”
Montone said when new firefighters are brought on, they bring a “two-for-one” value as their spouses also come as part of the package.
Reaume recalled the accomplishments in his two years as chief, including complying with the 23 orders from the Ministry of Labour, upgrading and servicing equipment with the help of town council, establishing health and safety committees and correcting about 175 deficiencies they found, initiating an Ontario Fire Marshal review with the goal to help with training, getting $30,000 from the Ministry of Health to assist with emergency management and partnering with the Rotary Club on a carbon monoxide detector project.
Deputy Chief Lee Tome said he worked with Reaume for 33 years and worked with Montone for five years and “I can assure you we are going to continue the progress we’ve made.” Tome agreed that “firefighters are doing it for the right reasons” and also praised the families.
“I enjoy it here so much,” said Tome. “It’s been such a great experience.”