Soon to retire Fire Chief Ted Dillon poses in a community response trailer a few years ago. Dillon announced his retirement and finishes his work June 30.

Soon to retire Fire Chief Ted Dillon poses in a community response trailer a few years ago. Dillon announced his retirement and finishes his work June 30.

Fire Chief Ted Dillon retiring after 27 years of service

After 27 years of dedicated service, Fire Chief Ted Dillon is retiring.

 

After 27 years of dedicated service, Fire Chief Ted Dillon is retiring.

His official retirement date is set for Sept. 4 but he will be out of the office starting Wednesday, June 1.

His dedication to the community cannot be understated according to community leaders and cohorts who state Dillon has been instrumental in developing a strong training program for his firefighters.

Donna Noble, administrative assistant for fire protection services for Ponoka County, has worked with Dillon for the last 17 years. She feels because Dillon was born in Ponoka, he has always been community minded.

He also ensured members of the Ponoka Fire Department (PFD) had what they needed. “When you got to a scene, he didn’t take over his members,” said Noble.

She says there are many important initiatives Dillon has brought to the department but three stand out the most.

“He’s brought the PFD into the public,” explained Noble.

Residents can find members of the PFD at many different community events such as the Stampede Parade, the emergency cabin at the Stampede Grounds, helping out with Big Brothers Big Sisters barbecues and bringing school tours to the Fire Hall to name a few.

Secondly, Dillon created a successful provincial model on developing a livestock emergency trailer.

“It was because of our simplified trailer that they (provincial planners) rolled out with Alberta Farm Animal Care,” she said.

Noble said the third thing Dillon has done is help develop a strong retention and recruitment committee with the Alberta Fire Chiefs Association. Dillon helped create easy templates for volunteer firefighters to use across the province.

Strong community involvement

Looking at Dillon’s community involvement as fire chief is something he was always good at, partly due to his work with the Ponoka Stampeders.

Ponoka News’ Mike Rainone worked with Dillon years ago when he was involved with the Stampeders. That was when the team was involved with the Chinook Hockey League. Rainone says Dillon always had time for community events.

Rainone worked at the Ponoka Herald and he says Dillon was always looking at ways to bring community involvement to the hockey team, something he did for the PFD as fire chief.

“One of the most dedicated community people I’ve ever worked with,” said Rainone, “he made it fun to be a community volunteer.”

Dillon was also a referee with Ponoka hockey teams and still volunteers with the Ponoka Stampeders.

A fun name Rainone used to call Dillon was “Red Licorice” because of his love for the candy.

Ponoka County CAO Charlie Cutforth praised Dillon’s dedication over the years. “He’s very well respected in the province in the fire protection services area,” said Cutforth.

“He has provided at least 25 years of dedicated service to the residents, and in particular, Ponoka County residents,” said Cutforth.

In a press release, Mayor Rick Bonnett also praised Dillon for his hard work. “Ted Dillon has made tremendous contributions to our town. His command and guidance has been much appreciated.”

Dillon looks back at years of service

One of the areas of emergency work that Dillon always admired was in the firefighter field. Dillon said he wanted to be a paramedic but with a young family, it was not a possibility.

He first volunteered as a firefighter in Fort Macleod for a short period of time before taking on the role of fire chief in Ponoka. He said it has been a rewarding job.

“The good times outweigh the bad,” said Dillon.

While he has seen some tragic events in the community, Dillon has made the time to speak with victims to help them deal with their loss. Saving a person’s life is something that is hard to describe, he added.

To help illustrate the feeling, Dillon told the story of firefighters coming to a house fire in Morning Meadows. The flames were fully involved and there was no way to save the home. The family had escaped the flames but their pets were trapped inside a burning home.

“The children had lost everything. So I talked to two guys (firefighters) and they went in and they were able to bring the dog and the cat, both out of the fire,” explained Dillon.

He immediately called, now retired, veterinarian Bill Friske to treat the animals and they were reunited with the family. “That was one of the traumatic things they didn’t need to have, loss of their pets.”

“What a wonderful feeling to see those children and their reaction . . . it was tremendous,” added Dillon.

His hope is that people remember that firefighters and emergency crews have to deal with devastating events. While on the job, the firefighters’ goals are to save lives, but after there is some need to regroup.

“Internally the guys are really good about keeping an eye on their fellow firefighter,” said Dillon of the team atmosphere on the department.

Over the years, Dillon is most proud of the training and skills his team has been able to acquire. The PFD has become so versed in training that the department now conducts its own training.

The biggest challenge he sees for many volunteer fire departments is going to be retention and recruitment. Dillon said call volumes and training have increased. “It’s become almost a job.”

Courses and practices are all done after regular hours and Dillon feels the dedication of a volunteer firefighter is important.

“And to keep up our good record. Our response times are second to none,” said Dillon proudly.

He said it takes three and a half minutes to five minutes by the time the first tones go off to leaving the Fire Hall.

While he has not met the new fire chief announced by the Town of Ponoka, and set to start July 6, Dillon wishes him the best of luck in the position.

Town hires new fire chief

The Town of Ponoka announced in press release Thursday, June 18 that it had hired Jamie Wilkinson, of Crowsnest Past to the new position.

He starts in his new capacity on July 6 with Kelsey Hycha being the temporary fire chief from July 1 to 6.

Wilkinson was the manager of protective services and fire chief with the Crowsnest Pass Fire Rescue.