The North Grenville Fire Service is a true asset in our community. With four full time staff and 42 part-time volunteer fire fighters, they work hard at responding to all the safety needs of our growing municipality. 

Volunteer fire services have been around for well over 100 years, and the model is commonly used across North America. The Kemptville Fire Brigade was established in 1855 with around ten men and an old hand engine (pump). Since then, it has evolved to meet all the technological advancements and needs of the growing community. 

Although the townships of Kemptville, Oxford-on-Rideau and South Gower were amalgamated to create the municipality of North Grenville in 1998, the Kemptville Fire Department retained its name until 2012 when it was changed to the North Grenville Fire Service to better reflect the community it served. 

According to Fire Chief John Okum, volunteer fire fighters train and provide the same services as career fire fighters. All fire fighters go through training to meet the NFPA 1001-Stardard for Firefighter Professional Qualifications and must commit to ongoing training to keep their skills up. Fire fighters don’t just train on fighting fires, they must also keep up to date on every service they provide, every piece of equipment and tool, fire apparatuses and more. Because of the nature of the job, significant emphasis is placed on this training to ensure fire fighter safety.

Volunteer fire fighters are required to follow policy/procedures, attend training, and are expected to respond to emergencies when they are able. They also have duties related to functions of fire prevention, public education, and public relations. Fire fighters serve the community every day by balancing fire service duties with family, career and social activities, often dropping what they are doing at a moment’s notice to respond to an emergency. 

While volunteer fire fighters sacrifice a lot for the community, Captain of the Kemptville station, Richard Aldhan, says he gets just as much in return. He was recruited into the fire service 20 years ago when he was just 20 years old. When the fire chief at the time approached him, he was hesitant; but with the support of his employer and his hockey team, the Kemptville 73’s, he agreed to go to a meeting and subsequently join the department. “I was very glad [the chief] was persistent and stuff because I’ve enjoyed it and I’m very, very thankful,” he says. 

Richard, who has been a captain for close to 10 years, says he really enjoys watching as new recruits evolve into not only great fire fighters but great people. “Watching them take whatever you’ve taught them and run with it and be very good at it. I think that’s very, very rewarding, just actually seeing your members evolve into the people they want to be.”

Richard also credits being a fire fighter for his own self development. He says it has taught him responsibility, time management and how to be a dedicated member of society. He is very thankful for all the skills that being a fire fighter has given him, with all the training and education he has received over the years. “It pushes you, it drives you, it tests you, and it mentally makes you a better person,” he says. “It makes you deal with every different circumstance whatsoever, how you deal with it, how you cope with it, and how you get over it. It’s a win-win. It definitely makes you a full, rounded, stronger individual.”

Chief Okum says that although fire fighter retention is an issue in many volunteer fire departments across North America, with dedicated volunteers like Richard, this is not a concern for the North Grenville Fire Service. While the length of time served is statistically lower, Chief Okum says they have enough dedicated fire fighters right now to meet the needs of the community. This is due in part to a new orientation and recruitment policy which gives potential recruits and their families the opportunity to learn about the realities of being part of the service before they sign up. The first orientation and recruitment under the new policy was carried out in 2019, which saw an additional thirteen members join the fire service. Under the policy, the fire department can carry out recruitment every 18 months, however Chief Okum says they don’t have any plans to hold one in the near future due to COVID-19, and the fact that their complement of volunteers is sufficient. “We are very happy with the results of our last recruitment and consider it a success,” he says.  

The North Grenville Fire Service is constantly evolving to meet the needs of the community. According to Chief Okum, one of the main benefits of having a volunteer fire department is cost savings to the municipality. Volunteer fire fighters have other careers or jobs and possess different backgrounds, and this broad range of experience can also be extremely beneficial to the service. That being said, municipal growth may alter the community’s needs and require more full-time staff to keep the community safe in the future. Chief Okum confirmed that should this change in service be identified, a full report with an assessment of costs and other criteria would be brought to council for consideration. 

For now, Chief Okum believes the North Grenville Fire Service provides excellent service to the municipality’s urban and rural areas. “We have a dedicated team of fire fighters in North Grenville,” he says. “I am extremely proud of their professionalism and their commitment in serving the community.” 


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here