Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com
GRAVENHURST — The streets and highways you travel to work and for fun are the workplaces of first responders.
South Muskoka’s main street from the Gateway to Muskoka through the Heart of Muskoka is where you’ll find police, paramedics and firefighters answering 911 calls 24/7.
This afternoon Rotarians recognized their “service above self.”
Like Madison Bath and Alex Kavanagh, Gravenhurst firefighters who a year ago last week exhibited “the highest standard for assisting at a multi-vehicle collision,” boasted their Chief Jared Cayley.
While off-duty they came across the fatal accident on the morning of Feb. 23, 2022.
Bath was driving north on Hwy. 11 to her job with the town as a bylaw officer.
Kavanagh was headed south to his day-job as an electrician.
In his remarks, Cayley said the collisions were spread across all lanes of the highway, on the bridge spanning the Severn River.
The accidents were “catastrophic and presented a very dangerous environment for anyone wishing to help those who were involved.
“Upon witnessing the event, Bath and Kavanagh didn’t hesitate to act and quickly assisted those in harm’s way. Their efforts provided dignity to those they could not save and in turn gave hope and assurance to those who could be helped” — until the chief and other first responders arrived.
Cayley added: “Whether or not the pager sounds, the instincts within a firefighter to do their best for their fellow human beings in times of dire need is a strong one. These two firefighters saw an immediate need to use their skills to lessen the impact of the tragedy to all those involved.
“These actions exemplify the foundational values of the fire service and are therefore deserving of this commendation.”
The remarks and commendation have been hung in all three Gravenhurst fire stations to remind the volunteers and full-time workers of what they all do every day.
The words are the same sentiments expressed by the police and paramedic representatives who were on hand along with a dozen Rotarians from Bracebridge in Gravenhurst for a regular club membership exchange.
Muskoka Paramedic Services Deputy Chief Stu McKinnon honoured the extraordinary efforts of the men and women on his team during the Dec. 24-25 snowstorm that socked in most of Muskoka and beyond — except first responders who all reported to work.
He said he got a call from OPP detachment commander Insp. Jason Nichols Christmas Eve telling him police were closing Hwy. 11.
“I thought how are we going to get to work? But somehow they all arrived ready for duty.”
Then when the 911 calls began coming in paramedics responded with stretchers in one hand a shovel in the other, said McKinnon.
Even the public helped when ambulances got stuck and had to dig their way into call locations, he said with thanks.
Paramedic Amanda Walker accepted the Rotary citation on behalf of the 30-40 paramedics slugging through the snow for those long Saturday and Sunday shifts.
Staff Sgt. Jason Belanger, who is acting OPP detachment commander at Bracebridge while Nichols is on secondment, paid tribute to the four members of Muskoka Street Crimes Unit, who deal with property offences and the man drug arrests and related crimes.
He said they have a thankless job that he would find difficult doing daily.
None of those officers, who work in plainclothes, were on hand as they don’t want to be visibly identified. Though Belanger did acknowledge them and their good work by name.
Each of the Rotary recipients received a $100 donation for a charity of their choice.
Police and paramedics donated their cheques to Hospice Muskoka and Andy’s Place. The firefighters split their share between Hospice Muskoka and GAP.
All of the honourees received Rotary coins with club’s logo ‘Service Above Self’ on one side; and on the flip side their four-way test motto engraved: ‘1. Is it the TRUTH. 2. Is it FAIR to all concerned? 3. Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS. 4. Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned.’
The club honours first responders three times a year.
29 years of ‘Local Online Journalism’
Twitter: @muskokatoday, Facebook: mclairmont1
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