Buckland Fire and Rescue honour longtime firefighters

Jodi Schellenberg
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Not only are firefighters often the first ones people see during times of trouble, they are also some of the most trusted people in the world.

Buckland Fire and Rescue held their awards ceremony on Sunday afternoon at the Ches Leach Lounge in Prince Albert to honour their longtime volunteers of the department.

“I think the awards mean a whole lot to our department as a whole because we have people who have the longevity of being involved in the community and being involved with Buckland Fire and Rescue,” deputy chief Ward Howat said. “It is a way to honour them but it is also a way to show our younger people what they can do in the community in the future years.”

Lt. Gov. Vaughn Solomon Schofield presented eight longtime members of Buckland Fire and Rescue with exemplary service medals or pins.

“It was very huge to have someone like Her Honour who understands what it takes to have those people in a community to get involved and to recognize them,” Howat said. “To have someone like that to our banquet and honour those people, it is huge.”

Schofield was happy to be presenting the men with their medals.

“In both urban and rural areas, we rely on well-trained fire departments to protect our property and our families and provide crucial assistance at vehicle accidents,” Schofield said. “As you know, in rural areas, we count on volunteers to accomplish this very important work and I know that first hand because I live in a rural area and we have had to depend on our department for services from time to time.

“They still undergo professional training and certification but the difference is they have careers in addition to firefighting,” she added. “A volunteer firefighter might get a call in the middle of the night, have to fight a fire all night and then go to work at their regular job the next day. To me, I think that demonstrates an enormous amount of commitment.”

Schofield said it takes a certain type of person to be a firefighter, one with strength of both mind and body.

“I’m deeply grateful to all of you who give your time and energy to serve the (Buckland) Fire and Rescue Department,” Schofield said. “I congratulate all of your honourees. Thank you for your willingness to serve and taking high standards and your commitment to teamwork.”

Duane McKay, who is from the office of the Fire Commissioner, said firefighters are asked to do something unique in their communities and show their strength in every situation thrown their way.

The cross on most firefighter uniforms is actually the Maltese cross, made up of four arrowheads, each one representing a different character trait, McKay said.

The first one represents bravery.

“There are things we are required to do that require bravery, bravery being something physical that we must do regardless of the cost,” McKay said. “The second is compassion, remembering that the people who we serve is not ourselves but the citizens we are sworn to protect.”

The third arrowhead represents loyalty to duty, not only to those they serve, but also to other firefighters.

“Regardless of your background, when join the fire service you are a member,” McKay said. “You can travel across this country and as long as you can find a fire station and you are a member of the fire service they will look after you.”

The last arrowhead represents courage, he said.

“Courage is where you know something needs to be done, you know the cost and you do it anyway,” McKay said.

He said exemplary service is beyond all those characteristics.

“Exemplary service is not just a single event, but continuous through the years,” McKay said. “Exemplary service means example, something that those entering into the fire service perhaps others in the community can look to and say, ‘That is the type of person I need to be. I need to stand for what is right, I need to do what needs to be done and I need to be compassionate at all times.’ It is the exemplary piece we honour today.”

Keray Wenzel was presented with a 20-year medal during the awards ceremony.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done and achieved and I’m happy for the recognition because usually a volunteer firefighter is not really recognized,” Wenzel said. “It is proud moment and statement for volunteer firefighters.”

Wenzel joined the fire department after he responded to a motor vehicle collision on his own. After that he decided he wanted to be able to do more to help others.

“It is also a satisfactory moment when you help someone in need who needed your help and your are successful at what you did to help that person,” Wenzel said. “It is very gratifying.”

The fire department helps keep those in the community safe, Howat said, which is why honouring the volunteers is important.

“For a community to have a department that is looking forward all the time, it makes your whole community stay safer,” Howat said. “When you are travelling on the roads or going missing in the bush somewhere you know there is someone out in the background that is willing to take the training and understand what to do to make you safe in the community and I think that is why Buckland Fire Department is second to none.”

He said it is a very progressive fire department, dedicated to being the best they can be.

“Buckland Fire Department is a very progressive fire department and the only way we can be progressive is by having people like these people who were honoured today become and stay involved in the department for years and years to come,” Howat said. “We are looking forward to having 10 more people the same way in the years to come.

The eight gentlemen presented with exemplary service awards are:

• Tony Yungwirth: 40-year bar

• George Yungwirth: 30 year bar

• Robert Bonin: 30 year bar

• George Bihun: 20 year medal

• Keray Wenzel: 20 year medal

• Donald Fabrick: 20 year medal

• Charles Cannon: 20 year medal

• Shaun Stewart: 20 year medal

Organizations: Prince Albert, Fire and Rescue Department, Buckland Fire Department

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