Howick firefighter celebrates 35 years of service
By Melissa Dunphy, Local Journalism Initiative reporterDepartment News Headlines News Employment and hiring 35 years firefighters
Jun 16, 2023, Howick, Ont. – It takes selflessness, sacrifice and a willingness to help to become a successful firefighter. It takes hard work and dedication day-in and day-out. Serving as a firefighter is an incredible feat, but serving humbly for 35 years? Exceptional. That’s why the celebration for Howick firefighter Kevin Stewart was so special to all those in attendance.
On June 6, members from Howick council, neighbours, family, friends and fellow firefighters got to celebrate the commitment Stewart has shown over his 35 year career in Howick, Ont.
“When we can honour one of your members for 35 years of service to the Howick Fire Department, it’s special,” began Reeve Doug Harding.
“In Howick Township, we are really pleased, I’ll speak for the residents of Howick and our council, for the effort that you guys put in. We’ve tried our best through a really good program putting money away to give you’s a lot of good equipment.”
The ceremony continued at the Howick Fire station in Gorrie, when Stewart received a round of applause and a certificate from Harding. It was then Stewart’s turn to take the floor and address the crowd gathered.
“There’s been a couple things change over the years. When we first started? we rode on the back of the trucks. It was fun until about the middle of December. It’s been a very honourable 35 years and I’m looking for another few years,” expressed Stewart.
He then received a thunderous round of applause from all in attendance.
The Wingham Advance Times sat down with Stewart after the celebration to learn more about his incredible career as a firefighter. And for Stewart, lots has changed since he began working at the station.
“What I’ve learned over the years is a lot of stuff changes, with the municipalities? we used to do a lot of fires. But there is not as many fires anymore. It’s more medical and first responding to car accidents,” explained Stewart.
Firefighters now have to undergo rigorous certifications and training, but for Stewart he said the rest of the training is “basically right on the job.”
“My first fire way back when, in 87, I had only been on the fire department about three weeks maybe and we had a big barn fire over in Wroxeter. I didn’t know what to do,” he said.
He recounts the story when he rode on the back of the truck with a fellow firefighter who put his arms around him and allowed him to finish getting dressed on the road. The fire chief at the time then told them to stand there and hose down the fire.
“And that’s all we did all night. Things have come a long way since then.”
He also talked about how the younger firefighters re-energize the station’s more senior firefighters. And it’s not just Kevin Stewart who’s got the willingness to help. It runs in the family, with both his brother and son serving as firefighters alongside Stewart.
“This has been something I’ve loved. And my family’s been behind me 35 years,” expressed Stewart.
So, what inspired him to be a firefighter? A willingness to help others in need.
“Just to help people in the community. Sitting around watching TV is for the birds!” joked Stewart.
“It’s phenomenal. Once it gets into your blood, and you’ve got the fire family, it’s pretty hard to get rid of.”
And there’s no slowing down for Stewart anytime soon.
“I was going to pack it in at 35, but I still very much enjoy it!”
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