Chief Noel Haines retires
More than 30 years of service ended early last month when former Fire Chief Noel Haines retired from District One of the Niagara-on-the-Lake Volunteer Fire Department.
A member of the local volunteer department since 1948, Mr. Haines became chief in 1972 and was presented with a long service medal by the Ontario Fire Marshal in 1978, honoring 30 years with the department.
Succeeded by Ted Warner, Mr. Haines credits his interest in the department to the man he replaced, former Fire Chief Don Sherlock, who encouraged him to attend fire college and assume more responsibilities within the unit.
In 1957 Mr. Haines was named lieutenant of A Company and, in 1964, became the A Company captain before taking on the work of Deputy Chief in 1967.
His work with the volunteer firefighters was cited when Mr. Haines was named Citizen of the Year in 1977.
"Most of the changes in the department reflect changes in the community," Mr. Haines told the Advance early this week. "When I first joined, honorary members and members of the department were at the fire hall a lot of the time. It was a centre of entertainment for anyone connected with the department," he continued. "Now it is hard to find time."
Joining the department the same year ambulance service was introduced to the community, Mr. Haines noted the changes in that service, pointing out the improvements in equipment and the specialized, emergency courses many of the District One firemen completed during the years of operating the service.
"My first big fire was in 1950," Mr. Haines said, remembering a fire that destroyed the steeple at St. Andrews Presbyterian church. "It was unbelievable to be on a ladder for two hours with a two inch hose in your hand."
On New Year's eve the same year, members of the
department, attired in new dress uniforms, responded to a fire just after midnight, he recalled, and remembered a humorous incident three years later in 1953 when fire struck the Imperial Bank.
"That was the night Doug Reid wore his wife's coat," Mr. Haines commented, noting it was a "bad fire", resulting in extensive damage with the fireman responding so quickly to the call, he accidently grabbed the wrong coat.
1953 was also the year fire destroyed the hose tower once located behind the Court House.
"I burned my hands in that one," the former chief said and credited a fellow fireman with assisting him.
"Alan Bradley caught me," he continued. "If it weren't for him, I wouldn't be here."
The 1961 fire which destroyed the old basket factory on Melville Street was one of the fastest burning fires, Mr. Haines said, as he outlined events during his 32 years with the department.
Married and the father of two teenage children, Mr. Haines operates a fuel service and is actively involved with the Masonic Lodge where he has been working on a major restoration project along with other lodge members.
Announcing the appointment of the new fire chief, a spokesman for District One emphasized the work the former chief has done with the department.
"He was practically doing everything," the spokesman said. "We are really going to miss him. He has been so involved, the rest of us took his work for granted."
The former chief's dedication to the department is reflected in his response to the question of the most rewarding part of his work with the volunteers over the years.
"Belonging to the fire department has been the biggest reward," he replied.