The man they call Father T now has the appropriate headwear to be Chaplain Father T.
Father Thomas Dorward was given the white helmet last week that signifies him as the Fire Rescue Chaplain of the Rideau Lakes Fire Department.
"It's wonderful to be recognized by your peers and by the township and village," said Dorward.
Fire Chief Scott Granahan considered it to be "absolutely an honour" to entrust the helmet to Dorward.
"We sometimes look past the roles that are often supportive," said Granahan. "But I don't forget, nor does our Deputy (Chief) forget, that we have that ability to pick up the phone and have somebody that can not just help, but also bring us back to where we need to be.
"He's been just an absolutely amazing resource, not just for our members in the community, but also for our members' families."
Dorward, who began serving with the fire department shortly after moving to Westport in 2002 following retirement, made the decision last year to step back from being a full-time responding volunteer firefighter.
"As they say, 'time marches on,'" said Dorward. "It seemed the right time to step down from the rigours of firefighting."
"We really wanted to keep him in our family, so that’s where this little bit of a change to him becoming a face within our command team came from," said Granahan, who is chief of the just over 80 other members of the fire department.
There are many roles of a Chaplain within a fire department. Some include offering support and assistance at emergency incidents, conducting or assisting with fire department funerals or memorial services and acting as a confidential listening ear to personnel and family members.
Granahan said the role is vital, as one call cannot drag into the next.
"He offers such a level place to focus to get our members and our department as a whole back to where they need to be," Granahan said.
Before his run with the township's fire department, Dorward's previous work experience included serving in the Canadian Forces medical services, an emergency EMS responder, and a full-time Toronto International Airport Emergency Services and volunteer firefighter.
The last job he held before retirement was as security director for the Toronto District School Board.
"It seemed a natural fit to be able to utilize the skills I had learned to serve our new home community," said Dorward on why he joined the volunteer fire department after he and his wife Brenda moved to Westport.
When Dorward moved to Westport, he was a Religious Brother in the Order of Saint Andrew. Upon joining the fire department, he assumed the dual role of firefighter-chaplain. Soon after completing his studies, Dorward was ordained as a priest.
Something that both Dorward and Granahan stressed was that Dorward's role as fire chaplain is not limited to Rideau Lakes.
"With our mutual aid services and partners… this isn't a service that is limited to our own membership. It is something that is absolutely available to everybody in the United Counties of Leeds and Grenville, Lanark and beyond," said Granahan.
"There's been issues where a chaplaincy was required in other departments," said Dorward. "It's like any other fire department resource. If another department requires it, all they have to do is ask.
"We're there for everybody."
Marshall Healey, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brockville Recorder and Times