Veteran volunteer firefighter honoured with 20-year service pin

·3 min read

A Waubaushene volunteer firefighter still remembers his first ever house fire even after two decades in service.

"It was a house fire up on Sandhill Road," said Brent Sterling, who was recently awarded a 20-year service pin at a virtual council meeting. "It was shortly after I'd joined. I was excited."

Back then, he said, training wasn't as rigorous as it is today.

"I didn't have a clue what I was supposed to be doing," recalled Sterling. "I ran up the the district chief and asked him what to do. He just looked at me and told me to back up one of the other firefighters on the nozzle. We were probably out there for about five hours. I was pretty darned thrilled to catch my first fire."

Back then, he said, there was no testing or interviews for joining.

"You were voted onto the station by the members themselves," said Sterling. "I got voted on because my next door neighbour was a volunteer firefighter, so when he retired I took his badge number."

Two years into the job, the now District Chief (DC) for Station 1, said he knew he was a 'lifer.'

"(Because) the reason you're doing it shifts a little bit," said Sterling, in an interview MidlandToday. "You're doing it less for the fun and thrill and more for the people at the station. You're doing it to make sure your fellow firefighters are safe."

Despite the fact that volunteer firefighters have other full-time jobs, he said, firefighting becomes their primary identity.

"For years, my day job was in the automotive industry," Sterling said. "And any time anyone would ask me what I did for a living, I'd say, 'I'm a firefighter and I also work at a plant.'"

His favourite part of the job is imposing his will on chaos.

"When you pull up on scene with the resources and staff you have, it's chaos," said Sterling. "You get to put some sort of structure and organization on the scene and get it under control."

Receiving the 20-year service pin makes him feel old, he said, with a laugh, but it doesn't mean he's ready to call it quits.

"As long as everything stays consistent, as long as my health allows, I will continue," Sterling said. "I've made a commitment when they asked me to step up to DC that I would stay on until I'm 60.

"As long as there's not someone smarter and brighter coming up behind me, I'll step aside for them, but otherwise I'll keep going," he noted.

At the council meeting, Shawn Aymer, Tay fire chief, praised the contributions of all the volunteer firefighters, especially those receiving service pins.

"A lot of people don't realize because of the word volunteer how much time and effort these individuals do put in," said Aymer. "The amount of certificates and certifications they have sometimes far outweigh some of your full-time career staff. I'd just like to reiterate not only that but how they are in the community and how they represent the fire department in the community and oftentimes on their own time. I'm proud to serve with them and thank them very much for their time and effort and everything they do for us."

Mehreen Shahid, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, OrilliaMatters.com