With an adult beverage in his hand (which he made sure to point out was cold), Murray Medley’s 45-year career with the Bracebridge Fire Department ended on his front lawn, surrounded by his family, friends, and colleagues.
Deputy Fire Chief Mike Peake was part of a committee that organized a parade of the department’s trucks from Station One at 225 Taylor Rd. to Medley’s house.
He says it’s been an emotional few months since the town announced Medley would be retiring. Peake says he’s worked with Medley for 23 years, starting as a volunteer firefighter, then as fire prevention officer, and now as deputy fire chief. “I’m happy to say that he can retire now and travel and do what he wants to do but he’s going to be a hard one to replace, that’s for sure,” says Peake.
Medley rode out of station one in style in a 1999 Western Star tanker that Medley had a hand in building. He says it was the first truck he played a role in designing.
It’s the only truck the department has that has a manual transmission and, considering its age, is only used as a reserve truck for larger fires.
It wasn’t a perfect ride, but it was certainly smoother than when Medley first took the tanker for a spin soon after it was delivered to the department. He explains he drove it through a construction site. “I’m missing changes and stopping and starting and bouncing and shaking,” he laughs. Well, the workers noticed. The next day he says one of them came to the fire hall to tell him about what they saw. “Well, I saw it last night and whoever was driving it you have to throw them out of the cab,” repeats Medley. “They have no idea what they’re doing.”
It was announced Friday that Scott Granahan will take over for Medley.
Medley says he has spoken to Granahan and believes the department is in good hands. The soon-to-be fire chief stopped by the fire hall when he was in the area house hunting. “I was really and truly very comfortable with him,” says Medley.
Granahan’s first day as fire chief will be July 17. Medley has agreed to remain with the department in an advisory role until then to help him transition into the new job.
“This has almost been like a drug to me, and I said I can’t go cold turkey on this,” continues Medley. “I have to stay active in some way.”
Peake knows that Medley will have a hard time not coming in every day. “He’s good to do what he likes to do and it’s probably going to be cutting grass at station one,” he says.
Despite staying with the department in an advisory role, it will undoubtedly change Medley’s schedule. “It kind of hit me hard when I walked in on Friday morning,” he says.
Medley’s usual morning routine consists of him walking around the fire hall and making sure everything is where it needs to be, brewing a fresh pot of coffee, and sitting at his desk overlooking Taylor Rd. and waiting for everyone else to arrive. “It was really weird thinking that’s really the last time as fire chief that I’m going to be able to do that,” he says.
Medley first thought of retiring before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. However, once he quickly realized that leaving the department at the time would put the town in a tough spot, he decided to stay on.
Last spring, he was on vacation with his family to celebrate his 70th birthday and the topic of retirement came up again. He has his wife agreed now is a good time to move. When he returned, he says he called Stephen Rettie, Bracebridge’s Chief Administrative Officer, and told him the news.
On his last day, Medley remembered his first day. The bright-eyed and bushy-tailed Medley met with then-Fire Chief Jerry Fox. “I said, ‘so what happens now,'” remembers Medley. Fox handed him his jacket, boots, and helmet and said when the siren goes off, get in one of the trucks and, once we get to the scene, we’ll train you on what you need to do. “That wasn’t unusual,” explains Medley.
Now, Medley says Jesse Lockie, Chief Training Officer, has a laundry list of tests that new recruits must go through before they can respond to a call.
Medley says he has all the respect in the world for the volunteer firefighters. “It doesn’t put food on the table,” he says, noting they all have day jobs. However, they also all want to support their neighbours at what are often their lowest moments.
“They’re all excellent firefighters,” says Medley.
As he was preparing to leave the fire hall for the last time as chief, Medley says he will always be proud that he had a hand in creating the building that also houses Muskoka Paramedic Services. He appreciates that council at the time agreed to let him have a say in the construction of the facility which was opened in late 2017. “Even in retirement I’ll be able to drive by and look at it every day and say that I was part of that,” says Medley.
“There’s been the odd low point but mostly it has been all high and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,” says Medley.