Renfrew's departing chief leaves with one last act of generosity

·4 min read

Renfrew – Last Friday was Kevin Welsh’s last official day as chief of the Renfrew Fire Department and he left with one last act of generosity to the community he called home for almost three years.

Mr. Welsh, who resigned from the position last month to accept the same position in St. Thomas, began his duties in Renfrew in early January 2019 and within the short time he was there, both he and his wife, Corinna made a positive impact due to their commitment to a number of local charities and fundraisers with a goal of building a stronger sense of community.

Just prior to leaving the station house for the last time as a member of the force, he put on display a very large box containing several food staples for the Renfrew and Area Food Bank. In fact, Mr. Welsh was working with the food bank to finalize their version of the 2021 Advent calendar which he explained.

“It is putting a new twist on an old idea,” he said while packing up his truck for his drive to St. Thomas. “You go to any store, and you will see aisles of different Advent calendars, which are different, but they get away from the core meaning of giving and Christmas. I think what the food bank has done is very creative and may produce more items for needy families.”

The calendar is set up with 24 days and each day the holder puts the item associated with the date into a food hamper to begin the countdown. One day is syrup, the next fruit juice, a box of stuffing and so on.

Mr. Welsh explained if you can only afford one or two items for donation, then just donate what you can afford.

There are also a couple of days labelled baby care products (diapers, formula, teething cookies, etc.,) and an adult care product (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.) so the adults are not forgotten.

“I think this type of calendar really drives home the true spirit of Christmas and how the simple things can mean a lot,” he said.

Acting Chief Guest

As Mr. Welch is preparing to depart, he shared the news Acting/Captain Michael Guest will fill the role of acting chief while town council continues the process of recruitment for a new chief. He is anticipated to fill the role until early May as the average time for recruitment of a fire chief can take between six to nine months. Born and raised in Renfrew, he said he is ready for the challenge.

“I was just appointed the other day and I am still processing it,” he said. “I have been a member of the department for 16 years and have worked my way up to acting captain and the good thing is I will still have shifts as acting captain so I will still be active and using my basic skills.”

When asked how he will approach the shift to being responsible for the command of 10 firefighters along with six new volunteer recruits, while still ensuring compliance with the ever-changing nature of policies and procedures coming out of Toronto, he said it will be a major adjustment for sure.

“But if council did not think I was ready, they would not have offered,” he said. “A big part is administrative which includes payroll, attendance and other daily functions. All I know is I am humbled to be able to work with an incredible group of people.”

As he was leaving, Mr. Welsh was asked if he felt confident leaving with the temporary command structure put in place.

“I have absolutely no concerns or qualms about leaving Michael as acting chief,” he said. “He has the experience and knows the job and perhaps most importantly, he is not afraid to either speak up on an issue and he knows when to ask about an issue. Renfrew is in good hands.”

Mr. Welsh applied for the job following the town’s introduction of a by-law requiring all fire department personnel, regardless of rank, to retire at the age of 60. Council immediately terminated former Chief Guy Longtin at the age of 61 because he was over 60. When Mr. Welsh applied, he said he chose to come to Renfrew due to its small-town appeal and he was committed to retiring at the age of 60.

However, into his third year in command, he realized he was not ready to retire and decided to apply for the St. Thomas position where there is no mandatory retirement age by-law in place.

Bruce McIntyre, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Eganville Leader

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