The Barrie Fire and Emergency Services are the pride of the city, but even they couldn’t be prouder of one of their own who has received a well-deserved position.
Gord Beilby was recently named the deputy fire chief of operations and training, a job that has him oversee the day-to-day operations for the department and its four platoons with a total of approximately 150 personnel.
The 60-year-old veteran of the fire-fighting profession says he's happy to be at the helm of the region he has long been a part of.
“I was born and raised in Minesing, my dad was born in Minesing, my grandmother was born in Minesing as were both of my boys, so yeah I’m fairly local,” said Beilby. “That makes being a member of Barrie Fire even more rewarding, knowing that it’s really my hometown community that I’m serving.”
Beilby has been a firefighter for 29 years and, while many kids dream of riding in a big red truck, the new deputy chief admits that his calling came later in life and it took tragedy to get him there.
“It was through a very tragic family situation that we came in contact with the fire department and they were absolutely phenomenal,” said Beilby. “It was old Vespra Township and the firefighters were just tremendous to our family and I realized then that I wanted to not only give back to the community like they did, but also give back to them for how they were for us.
"I met with a few of the firefighters and it turns out they were accepting volunteers and in 1989 I joined and have loved it ever since.”
The new job that Beilby has a routine that sees him have many tasks that need repeating, but he says he has no problem with that because in this line of work there is always something you need to be ready for.
“I start at 7 a.m. and I go over time sheets, meet with staff, set goals and check with training to see how that is going,” said Beilby. “It is pretty interesting though because there seems to be something that pops up to add a newness to the day, don’t get me wrong it isn’t as exciting as riding around on the fire truck, but it is fulfilling and challenging and allows me to build wonderful relationships with a lot of the staff.”
With nearly 30 years of fire-fighting experience, Beilby has seen many things change. Through all the technological advancements that have been made, it’s the changes to the job description that stands out the most to him.
“We used to fight fires and get called to car accidents and that was pretty much it,” said Beilby. “Now, though, we are so diverse that we do water rescue, ice-water calls, high-angle and confined space calls, we do a lot of medical calls now as well and we are trained in everything that could possibly be an issue.
"Having to be multi-diverse with our knowledge to me is the biggest change of all, that and getting old, of course.”
Beilby is happy with the new role and loves seeing the many kids that come through the fire hall to see the trucks, a brand-new one just arrived and still has to get the City of Barrie decals on it. It warms his heart to know that he and the department are well-loved in the community and it he recalls a time on he was on a call that ended well, so well that he and his crew were able to see first-hand that what they do is of most importance.
“One of the most fulfilling calls I’ve ever been on was a fire over on Blake Street and we were first in,” said Beilby. “There was a family member who was saying his mom was still inside; I was still a captain on the trucks then and I went in with my two guys.
"We located the individual and brought her out where she received medical attention and six months later she stopped by the hall to thank us. You don’t look for the thank-yous, but when they happen because you were able to save someone’s life, it is an unbelievable feeling.”