He is leaving the department in better shape than when he arrived.
Muskoka Lakes Fire Chief Richard Hayes will be responding to his last incident in the coming weeks. He arrived in 2010 and says one of the biggest achievements was getting his largely volunteer department up to a standardized level of professional training.
“Some of the achievements here are standardized equipment, standardized training, and to protect the firefighters and have them prepared for the future,” Hayes told the My Muskoka Now.com newsroom. “I got them ready for legislative changes in regards to training so they don’t have to worry about that.”
The Chief is moving back to the London area where it all started for him as a younger deputy chief in the early 2000s. He then made the move to Tillsonburg before accepting the post with Muskoka Lakes to become a chief.
He says one of the bigger reliefs will be not having to constantly monitor the radio all the time.
“The challenges of this job are being on call 24-7, 365 days a year,” he admits. “Unless I actually leave the community.”
Beyond that, not having to worry about scheduling for coverage on weekends, evening and holidays will be a relief.
“I’ve always got one eye open listening to responses and making sure we have got adequate coverage,” he says. “Whereas in a full time service you know that’s happening automatically.”
Hayes says over his eight-plus years in the role, no one blaze or rescue stands out, but rather the challenges of the Muskoka environment in winter.
“They’re all challenging,” he says of the emergency calls. “Especially this time of year in the winter months with ice issues and trying to get into or gain access to some of the properties. We always tried to get into some body of water so we can stop trucks moving. Whether we took from a river of the lake, whatever the case might be and then supply it that way.”
Hayes says the return to London will give him more time with some his children and grandchildren in the area.
Mayor for Muskoka Lakes Phil Harding says the departure of Hayes will be tough.
“Chief Hayes’ resignation is one that will leave a big hole in our fire department,” says Harding.