On December 5, the Winkler Fire Department held their annual awards night to recognize the efforts of its members.
Winkler Fire Chief Richard Paetzold said the Fire Department consists of volunteer members who give up their own time to do the job.
“These are part-time firefighters,” Paetzold said. “They give up their spare time to serve the community. Every one of these people that received awards tonight all have a day job that puts food on the table for their families.”
“During the day we have employers that give up their time, their employees’ time to serve the community,” he added. “It’s a sacrifice all around. Them being here isn’t driven by money, they’re here because they want to serve in something they’re passionate about. I think it’s fitting that once a year we recognize that contribution in a small way.”
A number of firefighters received the Winkler Fire Department Years of Service Award.
Firefighters Albert Dueck and Jonathan Wall were recognized for 10 years, firefighters Kevin Oestreicher, Brad Friesen and Lieutenant Terry Fehr for 15 years, Lieutenant John Klassen for 25 years, Captain Ernie Froese for 30 years and Lieutenant Abe Dueck for 30 years.
Retired Station Captain Ike Dyck received an award for 52 years of service from MP Candice Bergen.
Lieutenant Allan Derksen (25 years), Captain Peter Neufeld and Communications/Firefighter Ken Wieler (35 years) and Retired Station Captain Ike Dyck (45 years) received MAFC Long service awards, which are offered to eligible firefighters in Manitoba by the Manitoba Association of Fire Chiefs for 25, 35 and 45 years of continuous service.
Lieutenant Chris Kalansky received the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal for 20 years of exemplary service. The medal honours members of a recognized Canadian fire service who have completed benchmarked years of service. Exemplary service is characterized by good conduct, industry and efficiency.
“I’m deeply honoured,” Kalansky said. “I’ve been on the fire department for this length of time and I’ve been able to serve side by side with a great group of people.”
When Kalansky first moved to Winkler, one of his coworkers convinced him to join the fire department, which led into other avenues. “It all started with the fire department and the camaraderie and the excitement of being on the fire department and the ability to help out the community,” he said.
Kalansky has been one of several instructors on the fire department since the early 2000s, and has trained several classes. “It’s one of those things when you become a more experienced member you’re able to pass along some of your knowledge, help the next generation of recruits come forward and learn those skills,” he said. “Hopefully pass along something positive to them as well, that enthusiasm.”
The Winkler Fire Department is unique in that many members stay for long periods of time. “In Winkler we’re fortunate to have people that stay a long time,” Paetzold said. “The system that’s been created was created here long before I arrived on the scene, and I just want to continue those aspects that keep people serving for a long period of time.”
Paetzold said half the department has served for 10 years or more. “That’s quite extraordinary,” he said. “There’s a lot of experience there that comes along with that.”
“There is a great spirit of volunteerism and cooperation amongst our members,” Kalansky added. “The reality is we’re here to help the community. We all live in the community here and we want to see it protected.”
There are 37 members of the Fire Department, and Paetzold said the department is right where it needs to be to serve the community.
Paetzold also made sure to thank the families of firefighters at the awards night. “We can’t say enough or do enough for that,” he said. “There’s this tug of war every so often, when the birthday party is going on… I’ve felt that myself. It’s a big contribution.”