By Laura King
July 18, 2014, Toronto - St. Catharines Fire Chief Mark Mehlenbacher died overnight.
Mehlenbacher had battled melanoma for months, with periods of relief; he had positive results from a particular drug and had been upbeat over the winter.
By Laura King
Mehlenbacher’s health failed again in the spring but he was determined to carry out his duties as a board member with the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) and attended its annual conference in Toronto in May.
“I need to keep doing this,” Mehlenbacher, 55, said at the conference. “I have to keep busy.”
Mhelenbacher had been the chief in St. Catharines since December 2007 and was deputy chief in Burlington, Ont., before that.
Mehlenbacher had committed to working with the union when he took over as chief after some strife between the firefighters association and management.
Mehlenbacher was gregarious; he enjoyed a good joke and a good party. He was also passionate about his work and had been frustrated by a series of apartment fires in the city and residents tampering with smoke alarms.
Mehlenbacher was driving the OAFC’s initiative to sync EMS and fire dispatch in the province. He had been chief of the fire department and ambulance dispatch in Ancaster earlier in his career.
OAFC president Matt Pegg said Friday that Mehlenbacher was a leader.
“He was our colleague, teammate and friend,” Pegg said. “He will be missed and will forever be remembered.”
Mehlenbacher is the second OAFC director to die from cancer this year. Ajax Chief Mark Diotte died May 7, 11 months to the day after he was diagnosed with brain cancer and, subsequently, lung cancer.
In Ontario, 14 types of cancer are recognized as being work related, including skin cancer, brain cancer and lung cancer.
Funeral arrangements for Mehlenbacher have not yet been released.