Inuvik's longest-serving volunteer firefighter recognized with N.W.T. service award

·2 min read

When David Bernhardt joined the Inuvik fire department as an 18-year-old volunteer in 1980, he never dreamed that he would still be part of the team 40 years later.

"I got surprised," said Bernhardt. "I didn't think I'd go this far."

Not only has he gotten this far, he's being recognized for his 'significant contributions' to firefighting in the territory with this year's N.W.T. Fire Service Merit Award.

The annual award honours individual firefighters or fire departments based on nominations from the public, according to the Department of Community and Municipal Affairs.

This year, Bernhardt, who is Inuvik's longest serving firefighter, was the sole recipient.

Last year Bernhardt received the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Municipal Long Service award, which recognizes achievements of long-serving volunteer firefighters in communities across the nation.

Mentor

In a statement from Inuvik Fire Chief Cynthia Hammond, she said Bernhardt has had multiple roles in the fire department over the years including firefighter, lieutenant, captain, and deputy fire chief.

In 2013, Bernhardt had a heart attack, so he is no longer on the front lines but he still plays a communication role with the department and helps out the rookies during orientation.

Hammond wrote that Bernhardt shares "his history and knowledge as a mentor to novice firefighters."

He continues to show up to fire practice every Wednesday where he is part of the support platoon.

Hammond said Bernhardt is "ensuring exterior operations run efficiently and more importantly, maintains a calm, steady presence with a watchful eye."

'They are like family to me'

Bernhardt, who is originally from Cape Dyer on Baffin Island, Nunavut, has lived in Inuvik since the early 1960s.

He said he believes Hammond nominated him for the award and he is thankful to her, the other firefighters on the Inuvik fire department, the fire marshal and the public.

"We call each other brothers and sisters in the fire department and I'd like to thank them … they are like family to me ... it's good to see new equipment, new gear, new people."

Bernhardt said he thinks he'll be in the department for a couple more years, and he's got some advice for anyone thinking of joining.

"I always say the door is always open for you young guys. If you want to learn, it's a good choice," said Bernhardt.

"Don't be scared of fire. I know fire burns you but you can also put it out."