WILKIE — Every five years, the members of the Wilkie Fire Department are honoured for their commitment to keep people and property safe with a banquet sponsored by the Wilkie Fire Association.
June 17, the Saskcan Community Centre dance hall was decorated honouring the firefighters, as the members of the department arrived in their dress uniforms with their spouses to enjoy a meal, be recognized for their commitment and socialize with friends.
The invited quests for the evening were MP Rosemarie Falk, Battlefords-Lloydminister and MLA Ryan Domotor Cut Knife-Turtleford representing the federal and provincial governments; North Battleford Fire Chief Lindsay Holm representing the Saskatchewan Association of Fire Chiefs along with Ken Snellof the Saskatchewan Public Safety Agency.
The evening began with Piper Jayden Sittler leading the members of the department into the hall, with MC Councillor David Dornstauder asking chairman Gerald Gerlinsky to “pay the piper.”
Dornstauder welcomed everyone, introduced invited head table guests to take their seats and asked Gary Neigum to say the firemen’s prayer before the start of the meal.
Following the banquet, the head table guests were introduced, and greetings from Falk, Domotar Holm, and Snell, who praised the work of the Wilkie Fire Department and all departments across the province.
Chairman Gerald Gerlinsky of the newly formed Wilkie District Fire Association spoke about how the combining of the Wilkie Fire Department and the Rural Fire Association in January of 2022 made the best use of the firefighters and resources of the department.
The years of service for the members of the department range for 1984 to 2022. MC Dornstauder introduced the members, talking about each member and what they did in the community. It is a diverse group who work together as team to protect and serve the community and district.
Gerlinsky, with the help of vice-chair Brett MacIntosh of the Wilkie District Fire Association, made presentations of medals to firefighters. They include the Government of Canada Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal, recognizing those who have completed 20 years of service, 10 of which have been served in the performance of duties involving potential risks. The Saskatchewan Protective Services Medal was presented to those with 25 years of service of members working in a direct capacity to protect people and/or property and to ensure the safety and security of the people of Saskatchewan. The Government of Canada first bar was presented for 30 years of service to the Wilkie Fire Department. Chief Randy Elder along with fireman Jim “Percy” Williams received the Canadian Volunteer Firefighter Service award for 35 years with the department.
Fire Chief Randy Elder thanked those involved in the preparation of the evening, giving a special thank you to Stacy Hawkins, administrator for the newly formed association who worked hard to make it a special event.
There were seven firefighters who have retired since the last banquet, and they were honoured with a plague, a picture, and their own fire helmet. Those who retired are Blair Brandle, eight years; Marshall Herzog 13 years; Maxwell Herzog 16 years; Jason Delainey 19 years;Dave Kobelsky 20 years; Grant Miller 27 years; and Terry Kosolofski 28 years.
Elder said their dedication, service, and commitment to the department will be missed. Elder said, “All of you have achieved a milestone in service, are assets and leaders who have left a footprint for the firefighters of today to follow.”
The department recruited new members, Elder said. The department has a training plan that ensures training and certification meets standards. The student firefighter program has proved to be successful as the department has two students following in the footsteps of their dads.
Becoming a firefighter is challenging, Elder said, as the face of firefighting has changed from putting out blazes, to attending motor vehicle accidents where they are usually the first on scene, rescuing people, dealing with hazardous material, helping with the landing of STARS in trauma situations and educating the public. Therefore, the department stresses the importance of education, learning the best procedures, methods and ways of protecting not just property but more importantly people. Elder acknowledged their partners when they get the call out for an emergency as the RCMP and EMTs are a vital part in keeping everyone safe during an emergency.
Elder said, “We say we don’t measure one’s success by how high they climb but how high they bounce back when they hit bottom. Our department has encountered fatal and catastrophic incidents that we have had to deal with when we get back to the hall.”
He thanked Deputy Fire Chief Craig Sittler for his and the commitment of the whole department.” He closed with a message to the spouses and families of the firefighters by thanking them for the support they give the firefighter and the shoulder to lean on when they get home.
“Without your support we could not do what we do,” he said. “You are our ‘rocks.’”
As a thank you each firefighter got up, took a rose and presented it to the special person in their lives.