Iroquois’ volunteer firefighters past and present celebrate 75 years

More than 100 people gathered at Matilda Hall in Dixons Corners to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Iroquois Fire Department Saturday (Sept. 24) night.
Deputy chief Philip Thompson welcomed firefighters, along with their friends and families and local dignitaries to the evening event, where they were treated to dinner, speeches, and several displays of the unit’s history, including a video tribute, photographs, and newspaper articles. The station’s vintage fire truck and some examples of firefighter gear were also on exhibit.
Thompson gave a brief history of the Iroquois Fire Department from the initial organizing meeting in January 1941 to its current status as one of three South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services stations.
“The fire hall back then, located on the lower level of the town hall, was across from the high school on College Street,” Thompson said. “The police department was located on the lower level, as well. At that time, the only piece of equipment the fire department had was a hose reel with lengths of two-and-a-half-inch hose. This reel had to be pushed by hand or pulled by car to the scene of the fire. In 1943, the fire department bought a used 1938 Chebrolet Maple Leaf truck. The members built a hose rack in the back of it and purchased a pump from the war assets, which they mounted on the front of the truck.”
Thompson went on to outline the changes in equipment throughout the years, from the purchase of a $13,000 fire truck in 1963 to a GMC pumper/tanker with a 625 GPM pump and water-carrying capacity of 1,500 gallons in 1985 at a cost of $60,000, to the station’s newest vehicle in 2013, a Spartan Metro Star pumper/rescue equipped with a 1,500 GPM Hale pump and foam system. While the cost, efficiency, and safety of the fire station’s equipment improved over the years, it wasn’t the only thing that changed, Thomspons said. The services, the duties and responsibilities of the fire station and its firefighters also changed, going from a sole focus on fighting fires to one that now includes auto extrication, medical, and activated alarm calls.
“Now, I would like to speak about the members of Iroquois Station 1-4 of South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services,” Thompson said. “This group of individuals is very dedicated to fire prevention, firefighting, training, sports, and taking part in community events, whether it be on behalf of South Dundas Fire and Emergency Services or the Iroquois Volunteer Firefighters Association. The firefighters give of their time endlessly whenever asked to do so, with barely a complaint, sacrificing time that could be spent with family.”
The Iroquois stations’ current complement of firefighters includes: Stephane Aube, Blair Belanger, Gareth Cochrane, Rick Cogdale, John Cooke (captain), Les Crawford, Eric Foster, Bryan Holmes, Brent Howick, Ray Hunter (assistant deputy chief), Andy Major, Shawn Markell, Chris McDermid, Chris Paulino, Andres Piquette, Trevor Riopelle, Ryan Swank, Brad Thompson (captain), Philip Thompson (deputy chief), Todd Tysick, Scott Verhey, Jeff Watt, as well as director of fire and emergency services Cameron Morehouse and public educator Christa St. Pierre.
In attendance for the September 24 celebration was South Dundas mayor Evonne Delegarde, councillors Bill Ewing and Archie Mellan, along with Stormont, Dundas, and South Glengarry MPP Jim McDonell and SD&G MP Guy Lauzon.
Delegarde thanked not only the firefighters, past and present, for their dedication and service, but also their families who supported and continue to support them on the homefront. Thompson voiced that same sentiment during his final speech.
“When I talk about all of the dedication, I can’t forget the wives and companions of the firefighters who are usually inthe background helping in many ways, while the men are away at a call,” Thompson said. “In 1980, the women formed the Ladies Auxiliary of the Iroquois Fire Department and over the years raised money, which they used to make donations to the fire department, as well as to other charities. Later on, the Ladies Auxiliary membership started to decline as a result of the changing lifestyles and although there is no formal Ladies Auxiliary (now), the support of the women is still with us today whenever needed.”
This support and dedication, from the firefighters, their families, and the community is what McDonell focused when it was his term to take the lectern. He shared a personal story  about his parents who lost their barn, grainery, hen house, and home in Lancaster Township to a fire in 1949. There wasn’t an active fire department at the time. A train going through the area stopped and for 15 minutes blew its horn to alert McDonell’s neighbours. The whistle, alerting the community of the need for help, bought the family more time to remove many of their belongings before losing the house.
“So you can guess how people feel about not having (this service),” he said. “In one afternoon, you lose everything,”
McDonell applauded firefighters, especially volunteer firefighters who make the commitment of time and energy for the safety and wellbeing of those around them.
“I have so much respect for firefighters,” Lauzon said, pointing out that firefighters are there for people when they are facing one of the worst possible life experiences. Firefighters are there to help and more notably, as in the case of Iroquois’ members, he added, they are there on a volunteer basis to help their neighbours. That, he said, is the “essence” of what it means to be Canadian.

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