Fire Department Spotlight – Bracebridge, ON
Bracebridge Fire Chief Murray Medley has always had a love of fire trucks. He was recruited to join Bracebridge 42 years ago by his brother-in-law, who was a volunteer firefighter with the department at the time. In 2000, Murray volunteered to take on the position of part-time fire chief. In 2007, when balancing the position with his landscaping business became too much, he was offered the full-time position he is in today.
This month we’d like to spotlight Murray and the Bracebridge Fire Department for their commendable service and dedication to keeping the town of Bracebridge and the surrounding area safe.
Tell me a little about the town of Bracebridge.
Well, it’s grown up over the years. We had a bit of a manufacturing base up until the mid-70s. When those businesses started to pull out around the late ’70s, we started to go back into tourism. In recent years, we’ve become a retirement community, with a lot of the population coming from tourists who have visited over the years.
Is there anything about Bracebridge that presents challenges for your department?
We cover 350,000 square miles, so we have a lot of areas to serve. That can mean a lot of travel time. To go to some of the further extents, we’re looking at 25 kilometers away from our haul. That combination of the wide-ranging rural area and our downtown core can be challenging, especially with the old buildings being so close together. Over the 42 years I’ve been here, we’ve had a few fires there. We’ve been fortunate up to this point, but it’s always a worry.
We also tend to get high water in the springtime. In 2019, there were actually some pretty serious floods. With the tourism buildout we’ve had around the water, the areas that could normally absorb the water aren’t available anymore, so that’s also something we watch closely now.
What’s your favorite memory working with Bracebridge Fire Department?
I’d say the relationships I’ve built. It’s a really interesting group of people we’ve brought together here. They come from all aspects of the community. Over the years I’ve made some really, really good friends.
How does having members with such diverse backgrounds impact the department?
The diversity is really important. For example, when you have half a dozen people involved in the construction business on the team, they can offer a wealth of information about what we need to be cautious of around different buildings. It’s great to have that input.
What’s the size of your department as far as number of members, full-time and volunteer?
We run three full-time out of our main station here in town. We’ve got myself, a Deputy Chief/Training Officer, and a Fire Prevention Officer. We usually have between 45 and 50 volunteers. That number fluctuates much like any other department, but that’s what we shoot for.
How many stations do you respond from?
We have two stations. The second station is about 35 kilometers away from the main station. We keep a complement of around a dozen at that station with a tanker and a pumper.
What is the greatest challenge you’re currently facing in your department?
I think the challenge we’re facing is the same as any other volunteer department: recruitment and retention. We definitely don’t have a problem attracting people [if you] look at the [number of our] volunteer positions, but now with the amount of training and work that volunteers have to get through to become a truck-ready firefighter, a lot of people look at that and decide it’s a little more than they’re ready to sign up for with a family and a job. The time commitment is a challenge for everybody now.
Does your department need to do any of its own fundraising?
No, we’re fortunate to have had a very accommodating council and mayors. Any of the fundraising we do is mostly to contribute to other fundraisers. However, I recall one truck that we got from you, the old rescue that we had, was built with money we had fundraised ourselves.
How many trucks do you have in your fleet?
Right now, we have seven heavy trucks (pumpers, rescues, and the like) and three light-duty, 4×4 utility trucks. Over the years, we have ordered seven units from Metalfab.
What’s the main challenge that you face in regard to your trucks at this point?
It’s always been trying to balance our needs with what we can put into a truck. We’ve had issues over the years where we’ve tried to put all of our wishes into one truck and found out the hard way that you can’t do that. There is a line you have to draw in the sand there.
From back when you first started, what’s the biggest change in fire trucks that you’ve seen?
Of course, the size. The first truck we purchased from Metalfab was a mini pumper back in 1989 for our substation. Now we’ve reverted back to the full-size engine for that station. The trucks now are much more luxurious. The cabs keep everybody nice and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. The safety aspect is big. That would have never been thought of when I first started out.
That mini pumper was actually the first truck Metalfab sold in Ontario. How did you decide on Metalfab to make that for you?
Peter, the previous Chief, had gone from supplier to supplier looking for someone who could build a truck just the way he wanted. He came across Metalfab at a convention and that was where you guys clicked. He explained what we were looking for and I remember him saying how accommodating you were.
That’s great to hear. Is there anything else you can share about your experience with Metalfab?
It’s all been good. Like I said, it started out with my predecessor and I was fortunate that he let me get involved with the trucks, so every truck we’ve built with Metalfab I’ve had a part in. The one-on-one treatment that we get from you guys is always nice. We can pick up the phone and talk directly with someone. Any technical problems we’ve had you’ve walked us through. You’ve always been our go-to and I always look forward to the next truck.
Metalfab for Your Next Truck
A special thanks to Murray Medley of Bracebridge Fire Department for taking time to speak with Metalfab’s Business Development Manager, Ryan Stacey. If you’d like to learn more about the Bracebridge department, you can visit their website https://www.bracebridge.ca/en/town-services/Fire.aspx . If you’re in the market for a new fire truck yourself, our Metalfab team would love to hear from you. Give us a call at 1-800-561-0012 or contact Ryan directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.