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Thorold Fire Services celebrates latest batch of volunteers

A graduation ceremony for the 2023 class of volunteer firefighters was held on Monday evening; 'It’s healthy for the fire service to have new blood'

On Monday evening, the Thorold Fire Services held a ceremony at Fire Station 2 to celebrate this year’s graduating class of volunteer firefighters.

Every year, a new group of Thorold volunteers goes through a rigorous six month program that turns them into on-call firefighters.

12 men and one woman were officially handed their fire helmets and assigned to one of Thorold’s four fire stations last night.

During the ceremony, Fire Chief Terry Dixon took to the podium to share some kind words for the new recruits.

“Thank you for your dedication in the last six months,” Dixon said. “In this job you will be seeing some things that most people won’t see. PTSD is a very big thing in emergency services. I want you to be assured that we have a great support team here. It’s okay not to be okay. Take pride in being a firefighter, it’s an important role.”

New recruit Kevin Denhollander was given the Ted Lucas award for his exceptional performance during training.

“He definitely personified leadership,” Captain of Training Mike Pittaway told the crowd. “Certainly, his fellow classmates felt that he was very deserving of the award.”

The night was an emotional one for graduate Brett Saxton. His father Gerry Saxton was a St. Catharines firefighter who passed away in the line of duty last November.

A group of firefighters from Gerry’s station attended Monday’s graduation ceremony to support Saxton as he received his fire helmet.

Several other program graduates also had firefighter family members in attendance.

After the ceremony, Capt. Pittaway told ThoroldToday that this year’s group of volunteers is as great as ever.

“They worked really well as a team,” he said. “They actually gelled quite easy and quite early on which made my job easier.”

Having a graduation ceremony is an important part of the volunteer firefighter program.

“It’s a celebration for everybody,” said Capt. Pittaway. “They made the commitment to change work schedules and family events and be there and study. It kind of lets others celebrate in it as well. It’s just as important to the family and the loved ones who were a part of this."

Now, the 13 new recruits will start taking on shifts at the four fire stations in Thorold.

Come fall, the Thorold Fire Services will start looking for new recruits once again.

“It’s great,” said Capt. Pittaway. “Usually we have people who have moved on or have retired so we’re just filling those spots. It’s healthy for the fire service to have new blood because people are always keeping their skills up to show other individuals.”