By Maria Church
Aug. 4, 2015, Simcoe, Ont. – Almost everyone I spoke with during my time at the Fire Fighters Association of Ontario’s (FFAO) annual convention on the weekend, had pretty much the same thing to say: “We’re a family.”
And, frankly, the convention basically looked like a giant family reunion. Hundreds of campers filled a soccer field next to a massive covered picnic area, and everywhere volunteer firefighters and their families sprawled, chatting with their neighbours and watching the activity.
The training was over by the time I arrived for the annual general meeting on Saturday, but I made it in time for the trade show and firefighter games.
And as anyone would when crashing a family reunion, I sensed the love and support the members have for each other. Touring the grounds with FFAO board member and Township of Centre Wellington Chief Brad Patton after the morning meeting, we were warmly greeted by everyone we came across.
With more than 300 firefighters from 55 departments, and almost 100 visitors (i.e. spouses and children), it was the biggest family reunion I’d ever seen.
FFAO president and Port Colborne firefighter Chris Karpinchick explained the value of the casual and friendly convention best when he said that yes, formal training and education are important, but, “You learn just as much walking around talking to everyone. ‘We had this call.’ ‘Oh, what did you do there? Oh, we did this and this and this. Hmm, never thought of that, maybe we’ll try that at home.’”
Karpinchick is going into his second year as president of the association after taking over from long-time member Dave Carruthers in October. Karpinchick honoured his predecessor during the AGM by presenting him with the president’s award.
Karpinchick told me several stories of Carruthers’ dedication to the FFAO and of his continued assistance to him as president. It’s clear the award is well deserved.
The association also welcomed three new executive members on the weekend.
Next year’s convention is happening again in Wainfleet and organizers are expecting an even larger turnout after word spreads of this year’s success.
Now boasting a new, attractive website and a focus on training and education, the association is going places, and it’s hoping to pick up new family members along the way.