Four Swift Current firefighters honoured with long service medal

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The recent fire north of the city served as a reminder to how important firefighters are to a community.

On Tuesday that importance was recognized as four firefighters from the Swift Current Fire Department where awarded the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal by Lieutenant Governor Vaughn Solomon Schofield.

Deputy Fire Chief Darren McClelland, Firefighter Earl Braun, Auxiliary Firefighter Gordon Frank and Fire Chief Denis Pilon were awarded the medals, with Pilon receiving an additional bar for his extra ten years of service.  Pilon also received the Lieutenant Governor’s Military Service Pin for his 15 years in the Canadian Army.

“It’s really great to have this honour, and to receive it from the Lieutenant Governor in particular,” Pilon said.  “It sums up what we do as firefighters.  We give up a lot of time and our lives when things happen and this past week just shows that.”

The Exemplary service medal is awarded to long serving members in fields of public service that involved potential risk.  It’s awarded to firefighters, police officers and members of the Canadian Coast Guard, among others.

The firefighting version was created in 1985 to recognize those who have completed 20 years of service, 10 of which must involve duties with potential risk.

“It’s a pretty thankless job sometimes,” Deputy Fire Chief and master of ceremonies Pete L’heureux said.  “Seeing them get an acknowledgement, even as small as it is, a small award, a small presentation, means a lot to those guys.”

The Lieutenant Governor also noted the difficulties associated with firefighting in her address to the assembly.  She thanked the families of the medal recipients for being so supportive, and acknowledged the heavy workload that firefighters deal with.

“I’m grateful to all who have chosen this challenging profession for the integrity and high standards you bring to your work and for your courage in the line of duty,” she said.  “The people of Swift Current are in your debt and are most grateful.  It takes a special person to meet the physical and mental demands of fire fighting.”

The award winners were proud of their work, but also quick to point out the role other firefighters play in their success, especially in light of last Thursday’s blaze.

“Being a firefighter or working in the fire department is a team event.  It’s like being on a hockey team,” McClelland said.  “You go to an incident like that and you just know that everybody is doing their thing.”

“It’s a fantastic group of people.  They give of themselves constantly and I can’t say enough about them,” Pilon said of his co-workers.  “We’ve got a great group here in the city.”

Of the four honourees, Pilon has served the longest, starting in Melville in 1993.  He came to Swift Current as deputy chief in 2010, and became chief not long after. 

McClelland, who worked several years in Emergency Medical Services, started with the fire department in 1997.  He is noted for his work with burn victims in southwest Saskatchewan.

Braun started firefighting part-time in 1992, before moving to full-time in 1994.  He helped initiate the rural rescue program in 1996.

Frank started working as an auxiliary in 1994.  In 2004 he earned his instructors certificate, and helps educate new auxiliary firefighters in addition to his other duties.

Organizations: Swift Current Fire Department, Canadian Army, Canadian Coast Guard Emergency Medical Services

Geographic location: Swift Current

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