By Ron Giofu
Bruce Montone may have retired as fire chief in Windsor but he has no plans on leaving firefighting.
Montone was officially named as the new fire chief in Amherstburg and will start his new duties April 24. Current fire chief Al Reaume will resume his retirement at that point.
“You can’t believe how much I’m looking forward to it,” Montone told the RTT prior to Monday night’s council meeting.
Montone’s contract with Windsor expired at the end of March but he decided he didn’t want to leave firefighting altogether.
“I decided that retirement won’t fit me very well, at least not yet,” he said.
Montone said he has seen the work Reaume has done in Amherstburg since coming on in 2015 and the “significant changes” the Amherstburg Fire Department has embarked upon and that made his decision to come to Amherstburg somewhat easier.
After talking to Reaume, he spoke with CAO John Miceli about the position and talks progressed to where Montone agreed to take the chief’s job in Amherstburg.
“It was not a difficult discussion (with Miceli), let’s put it that way,” said Montone.
Montone had a five-year contract with Windsor but said he agreed to extended it to have a transition put in place. Now that the transition in Windsor has come to fruition, he said he is coming to Amherstburg to continue the work Reaume started and to “continue to move the department in the direction he set.”
One of the major priorities for Montone will be the creation of a new master fire plan for Amherstburg.
“Obviously, we are going to need significant input,” said Montone, noting the input has to come from the firefighters and the public at large. “It’s very, very important to listen to what the community expects of their fire service. We want to hear what the public thinks and expects for the next five to ten years.”
That plan will also see the input of the province and town council, he added.
The incoming chief has nearly 41 years of experience including stops in municipalities similar in size to Amherstburg. He has been a volunteer firefighter, a career firefighter, a fire prevention officer and fire chief in northern Ontario. Montone worked with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office from 1987-2002 and was also a deputy fire chief in Ottawa where he was responsible for the communications division, special operations division, comprised of Haz-Mat/CBRNE, all rescue activities including water and ice, auto-extrication, high angle, confined space, trench and USAR Operations. His biography includes stating that the Divisions of Fire Prevention, Training, Safety, and Maintenance were also part of his portfolio.
“My impression of the town of Amherstburg is that there is a huge amount of community pride and commitment by its residents. People in Amherstburg are very proud of what they have,” he said, adding he believes his career has come full circle.
Miceli also outlined Montone’s qualifications, including an Ontario Public Safety Award and the Fire Chief of the Year Award, the latter being from the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs. Both of those awards came in 2016.
Mayor Aldo DiCarlo said Reaume expressed a desire to go back into retirement and Miceli was aware of Montone’s contract expiring in Windsor. He noted that the timing was perfect as it is also time for the new master fire plan and Montone could start on it from the beginning rather than taking over mid-stream.
DiCarlo said Montone has a “very healthy CV” and believes Amherstburg is very well situated with both Montone and deputy chief Lee Tome at the helm.
“(Montone) has got a pretty decorated past as far as firefighting goes,” said DiCarlo.
DiCarlo added that Montone has retired from Windsor, not from firefighting and that by the time Montone is ready to leave Amherstburg, the town’s fire department will be in a better position in terms of succession planning from within.
Reaume’s last official function for the department will be the awards banquet April 22 and Montone will take over as chief officially two days later.
As for his retirement, “I’m going back to do what I was doing when I got the call (about coming to Amherstburg) – I’m going back to playing golf.”
Reaume only planned to stay for one year but with provincial orders not complete at that time, he stayed for another year to ensure those orders were dealt with.
“It’s been extremely positive,” he said of his time in Amherstburg. “The firefighters here are phenomenal. They’ll give you 100 per cent. They are doing the job for the right reasons.”
Reaume told council that “we’ve come a long way” since he took over in 2015, noting it was “a rocky start.”
The 45-year firefighting veteran also said the “timing is just right” to retire again, noting Montone can start fresh with the master fire plan. When he was approached about his thoughts about the town hiring Montone, he said the latter was “the perfect replacement for me.”