Hemmingford Fire Service to celebrate 50th anniversary

HEMMINGFORD The volunteer firefighters of Hemmingford Fire Service have been responding to calls for 50 years, and have become part of the history in the small Quebec township. According to fire chief Neil Lamb, the fire service was established in 1958 when the chamber of commerce and the village council at the time approached Harry Warner, a Montreal firefighter living in Hemmingford, asking him to organize a department. Until that point, there was no formal service, Lamb said, but that soon changed. The service started with six guys, including Harry, said Lamb. They bought a used 1932 fire truck in Montreal, paying for it themselves, and began organizing and training. Gaetan Fortin, one of the departments founding members who is still involved with the department today, recalled its humble beginnings. We started first in a private garage five years before a new fire station was built at town hall, said Fortin. We started very small. The department didnt move again for another 30 years, said Fortin, until it moved to its current home on Route 202 in 1995. There have been tragedies over the years with homes and businesses lost to fire, and in a few instances, the loss of lives. However, the department has maintained success in battling blazes for the majority of its history, said Fortin, with no firefighter being seriously injured during a half-century of service. There arent many departments that can say that, Fortin said. As a founding member, Fortin added he is very proud to see the high-quality firefighters the department has today. Despite the ever-increasing demands of training and certification required of firefighters, the departments roster has remained consistent, averaging from 25-35 members. Its a special commitment to meet those requirements, all while not being compensated to do so, he said. When you live in a small village like we do of 300 families, the township really cannot pay a $30,000 a year salary for a firefighter, said Fortin. Were doing a great job and were just as qualified as any paid service. We do what we do to help our municipality, which ultimately helps ourselves. It is getting harder and harder all the time because of that demand [for training], Lamb said. People just arent willing these days to spend that many hours and not make a career out of it. Thats why we appreciate those that do the commitment. The ability for the service to do its job has also relied on the strong partnership it has developed with neighboring departments, such as ones in St. Bernard-de-Lacolle, St. Paul de l'Ile-aux-Noix, and Sherrington in Quebec, who were once under the sole protection of the Hemmingford department, said Fortin. Hemmingford firefighters are also a familiar sight across the border in Clinton County, providing mutual aid to the departments in Mooers and Champlain as well. Its a good relationship because they appreciate us and we appreciate them, Fortin said of the other departments. In recognition of the departments history and in appreciation of the community and neighboring departments, a 50th anniversary celebration will be held at the fire station this Saturday, Aug. 30, from 12-5 p.m. The Hemmingford departments trucks and a collection of its history will be on display. Hot dogs, cake and other refreshments will be served.

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