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Essex Firefighters recognized for several years of service

- Captain Kaufmann planning to retire on 38th anniversary -



by Sylene Argent

Firefighters are the hometown heroes who are running into crisis situations when everyone else is running away. It takes a special kind of person to fearlessly dedicate themselves to helping others in times of peril, often putting their own safety at risk.

  Last Wednesday evening, the Town of Essex and Essex Fire & Rescue hosted a dinner at the Essex Centre Sports Complex to recognize local firefighters who have dedicated 20, 25, 30, and 35 years of service to their community.

  Essex Fire Chief Rick Arnel emceed the event. “Firefighters always know they are susceptible to tragedy. They go to work every day, knowing they are doing something positive for the community. Everyone appreciates us [for our role of service to the community], and I appreciate our firefighters for what they do every day.”

  Being a firefighter means needing support beyond the walls of the fire hall. “This job, you couldn’t do it without someone else’s help,” Arnel said, speaking of spouses. He took a moment to thank the significant others of firefighters for their support when the need for help rings early in the moment, during family time, or even during the holidays, like on Christmas morning.

  “Thank you to the spouses. Those are the people who keep us grounded, keep us going. They pull us out of the dumps [after a difficult call] and sends us on our way,” he said.

  Captain Randy Kaufmann was recognized with the Ontario Service Ribbon for having dedicated 35 years of answering late night calls and attending continuous training sessions as a firefighter.

  Kaufmann began his career as an Essex firefighter on March 1, 1981, after encouragement at a time when he was looking to join a service club. He joined Essex Fire & Rescue after speaking with then Fire Chief Hank Scratch, Deputy Chief Sam Smith, and Captain Ron Taggert. He learned that there was a need for firefighters at the time, and decided this was the service he wanted to join after attending a few meetings.

  Kaufmann will have served the community as a firefighter for 38 years on March 1, 2019, which is the date he intends to retire.

  “It’ll be really hard when I retire,” Kaufmann said, noting Essex Fire & Rescue has a wonderful public education program he has enjoyed teaching to area youth at various events hosted throughout the community.

  “There’s a lot of really nice people in the department. I will really miss the companionship there. They are there for one reason, and one reason only; to help others.”

  If he had the chance to do it all over, Kaufmann said he would choose to serve the community as a part of Essex Fire and Rescue again, “in a heartbeat. It has been a good 38 years. Some young kid will be a great captain [one day]. I feel comfortable leaving. The Town is currently going through a firefighter hiring process. It is a good time to leave. 

  “Over the years, I have been fortunate enough to work beside many firefighters who were a constant source of support,” he said.

  “I would like to thank my family for their patience and support when responding to calls in the middle of the night, turning all the lights on, and trying not to make too much noise as I rushed out the door to the calls. I would especially like to thank my wife, Mary, our son, Kipp, and daughter, Keri, as well as our extended family for their constant support and understanding of the demands as firefighter, including leaving gatherings early and missing out on events to respond to fire and emergency medical calls.”

  Arnel said that length of commitment to the community is amazing. “On behalf of myself and administration, thank you for all you have done. Glad to have you.”

  During the ceremony, Firefighters Trevor Menard, Tom Abbott, Joe Meloche, Shawn Marontate, Jason Pillon, Robert Archambault, Chris Meloche, and Ed Lepain were presented with the 20 Years of Service award. Firefighters Robert Welzel and Greg Wright were presented with the 25 Years of Service medal; and Rick Balind, Rudy Neufeld, Elwood Defour, and Glen Gorick were recognized with the 30 Years of Service award.

  Essex Fire & Rescue’s remaining auxiliary members, Jason Hernandez and Milan Tot, were promoted to firefighter and received their official badge, wallet, and name tag.

© 2020 The Essex Free Press ltd.

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