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  • Writer's pictureESSEX FREE PRESS

“It’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle:” Firefighters recognized for years of service to the community

by Sylene Argent, Local Journalism Initiative

Despite the time of day, when the pager sounds, firefighters drop what they are doing and respond to assist their neighbours in emergency situations.  

  Essex Fire & Rescue was able to dedicate an evening to recognize firefighters who have reached significant milestones in terms of years of service to their community last Wednesday evening during the annual Firefighter Appreciation and Recognition Awards Night. The event was hosted at the Essex Centre Sports Complex.

  “Being part of the fire service is not just a job, it is a lifestyle that impacts not only the firefighters themselves, but also our families and loved ones,” Jason Pillon noted, who was announced as having been appointed as Essex’s new Fire Chief during the event.

  “We feel it is important for us to convey our appreciation for the sacrifices you’ve undertaken, such as missed family dinners, birthday parties, holidays, and solo parenting moments to name a few,” he added.

  Firefighters often face high-stress situations and traumatic experiences, and “they simply return home and carry on with what they were doing,” Pillon said, offering thanks to their families for providing understanding, support, comfort, and a listening ear when needed.

  This event, Pillon said, “Is an opportunity for us to express our gratitude for your selflessness, bravery, and ongoing contributions to public safety. Your long-term commitment, dedication, and sacrifice in such a demanding job plays a vital role in ensuring the safety and well-being of our communities.

  “You are often faced with challenging and dangerous situations, and all perform with professionalism that is second to none. You are what makes Essex Fire such a great place,” Pillon added.

  Essex Fire & Rescue recognized Captain Sarah Newton and Firefighters Derek Deacon and Jason Blais (who has served 18-years in total with service to other departments) from Station 1, Captain Justin Pulleyblank and Firefighter Francis Bosse from Station 2, and Firefighters Jason Hernandez and Milan Tot from Station 3 for ten-years of service.  

  Firefighters Andrew Westwood from Station 1, Debbie Dufour from Station 2, and Josh Cookson and Braydon Uttley from Station 3 were recognized for 15-years of service.

  Though there were no federal Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal for 20-years of Service presented this year, 15 firefighters will earn this next year.

  The Ontario Long Service Medal for 25-years of service was presented to Firefighter Rob Archambault from Station 1, and District Chief Ed Lepain and Firefighter Chris Meloche from Station 2.

The Ontario Long Service Ribbon, presented provincially, for 35-years of service was presented to Station 3 District Chief Elwood Defour.

  Essex Fire & Rescue also recognized retiring Firefighter Dennis Didone (19-years), Captain Tom Bonneau (33-years), Captain Mark Bosse (32-years), and former Fire Chief Rick Arnel (48-years) for their service.

  Firefighters recognized during this event, Pillon noted, collectively have contributed 380-years of service to their community.

  He added that Essex Fire has a current roster of 53 firefighters totaling 987-years of service, which speaks volume to the commitment of these professionals.

  “Your commitment to protecting our community is truly commendable, and the sacrifices you make day in and day out do not go unnoticed,” Pillon added.

  Essex Fire & Rescue Services is currently seeking applicants for volunteer Firefighters. Individuals interested in applying can complete the online application form by January 22, 2024 at 4:30p.m.

Those interested in learning more about becoming a Volunteer Firefighter can visit


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