POMQUET, ANTIGONISH COUNTY, N.S. - 2019 is a special year for the Pomquet Fire Department as members celebrate 50 years of operation.
John Doiron and Paul Doiron have been around for all 50 years and they recalled, in conversation with the Casket Feb. 6, the department evolving from the Men’s Club in Pomquet.
“And we built the first fire hall in 1969; built it in three pieces, right next to the church,” Paul said.
“It was the former Nash Credit Union we had right here in Pomquet,” John added. “That building was hauled down to Monk’s Head for a dwelling; it’s still there, people are still living in it.”
The men remembered raising money for the department start-up, through different activities, and a large barn fire, just prior to the department beginning, which Antigonish firefighters responded to.
“We had an old oil truck, we converted it to a fire truck,” John said, chuckling a little as he recalled the humble beginnings of the department. “We had the oil tanker and a gas pump, that was it.”
Chief Pierre Venedam has been with the department for 43 years.
“I think as far as the fire department evolving, what we do today is totally different than what we did back then,” Venedam said, referencing the fact that, for a long time, firefighters would do all the maintenance of vehicles, equipment and hall, on top of their fire protection roles.
“Today, of course, we make sure everything is ready to go, but when you had to repair trucks and make repairs to the hall, it was these guys,” he said, gesturing towards John and Paul.
“I remember being here some nights working on a truck until midnight; just getting stuff done. Whereas today you buy things, and take things out [to be repaired, for maintenance],” Venedam added.
Another evolution for the department is in the type of calls they respond to; adding motor vehicle accidents and water and ice rescue to their fire duties.
“I remember when we got our first set of Jaws [Of Life]; they weren’t very big but they did everything we ever needed them to do,” Venedam said.
“We always seem to move ahead; I don’t think we were ever a fire department that stood still,” he added. “We are always looking for ways to improve.”
The chief said the department is 23 persons strong now, but there is room for 30.
“It’s getting tougher because a lot of young people are not here,” he said of membership struggles, a reference to out-migration which hits a lot of Nova Scotia rural communities hard.
Venedam noted the obligation is a meeting once a month and training sessions every second Monday.
“So, basically, two times a month and one meeting, then there is some training on the weekends,” he said, a reference to certification members can acquire.
The current fire hall was built in 1989 and Venedam said it could use an expansion.
“Looking to build another bay on it,” he said. “With the ice and water rescue, the stuff we need to work on, the equipment, we don’t have the space. It’s something we’re aiming for.”
Joined by Deputy Fire Chief Doug Benoit, the two men agreed the biggest changes over the years have to do with the technology now utilized. They talked about the Jaws of Life equipment going from, “air, to hydraulic to, now, battery” as an example.
As for a little piece of department trivia, Venedam noted their trucks were, at one time, green. The department has six trucks these days, with white as the primary colour.