Dedication, commitment to safety and improvements in training were all factors members at the highest level of the NWT firefighting community took into account as they determined this year’s Fire Service Merit Award winners.
The annual honours were handed out from Oct. 5 to 10 during Fire Prevention Week, as local fire crews shared information about fire safety while putting on enlightening fire displays at their local fire halls.
“We couldn’t have fire departments in the NWT without volunteers,” said Chucker Dewar, fire marshal for the territory. “There’s some significant sacrifices that come along with that. Fires or emergencies of any kind, they’re not scheduled events and whether it’s in the middle of the night, whether it’s during Christmas dinner, Thanksgiving dinner, these folks are heading out and they’re extremely dedicated and committed to their communities and the protection of NWT residents. It’s important that we recognize their contributions.”
This year’s awards were doled out to three outstanding individuals as well as two departments, Dewar said. Each candidate was nominated from within their community. From there, a panel of territorial fire marshals along with the president of the NWT Fire Chiefs Association deliberated and determined who they believed was worthy of recognition.
Some individuals, like Hay River’s deputy fire chief Vince McKay, were recognized for their immense leadership skills, not only with their crews but with departments outside of their jurisdictions. According to Dewar, McKay has always taken a special interest in developing and maintaining standard operating procedures within the department, a necessity for any crew. However, his safety guidelines have been so immaculately constructed that Dewar is considering implementing them within departments across the territory.
“There’s no use re-inventing the wheel if someone’s done the work in the community,” Dewar said. “What’s applicable in Hay River is probably applicable anywhere in the territory pretty much, and other departments can take it and kind of adapt it to fit in their own environment.”
In Fort McPherson, 42-year fire-service veteran Norman Firth was singled out as a strong leader by his community, who wanted to give thanks to their long-time fire chief, according to Dewar.
In Wekweekti, Clarence Nasken was given an award for his efforts to revitalize the once downtrodden operation.
“Things were kind of fading away and there wasn’t much involvement and Clarence has kind of breathed some new life into the Wekweeti fire department,” Dewar said, detailing the new bunker gear, compressors and training programs Nasken has worked to implement since 2009.
Fort Smith and Behchoko’s volunteer departments were also commended for their dedication to the continued growth and improvement of their operations, Dewar said.
Fort Smith, the more established crew of the two, has numerous long-term members on its team that have provided upwards of 15 years of service to the town. In addition to being on call 24/7, Dewar said their activities in the community – like an annual Christmas food and toy drive – demonstrate a true commitment to the well being of residents.