Dave Bergeron retires from his full time firefighting employment to continue his passion of farming. Courtesy Photo

HAMMOND – Dave Bergeron has retired from his day job.

Dave and Bonnie Bergeron and daughter Graceson own Dream Ridge Farms in Hammond.

The farm features award winning Ayrshire, Jersey and Holstein animals, and according to Dave, is the reason he and his wife first met when in their mid 20’s as a result of both being involved in Jr. Farmers and Ayrshire cattle.

Bergeron’s other lifelong career is as an Ottawa firefighter, which he has just retired from after 36 years as a full-time firefighter and four years as a volunteer.

Dave retired as the captain of his station, a nice ending to a decade’s long career.

While he served as a firefighter for an ever-growing urban area, he continued to act as a judge at multiple 4-H Shows, Breeder’s Cups and Regional Shows throughout Canada, including in Ontario, Quebec, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, Columbia, Finland and the USA.

He began his career as a volunteer firefighter in Cumberland Township in 1985 then joined as a full-time firefighter in 1989.

When Ottawa amalgamated with neighboring municipalities like Cumberland Township, he was already working as a full-time firefighter.

Becoming a firefighter was not something Bergeron had planned on. He enjoyed being a volunteer, but as a young man he enrolled in Algonquin College in business administration.

An opportunity came up for two full-time firefighter positions in Cumberland and he applied. Back then volunteer firefighters were given the first chance at any full-time job.

“I was at Algonquin College taking administration in 1988. There was a posting for two full-time fire fighters. They put it to the volunteers first. They always hired from the volunteers’ force. In that competition I was in my last year of college and ended up being third so I missed out. I was the only one that stayed on the list for a year,” said Bergeron.

He was not selected for the full-time position and continued to be a volunteer while he looked for a job backed by his business administration degree.

Bergeron remembers, “I was working for the Ministry of Transportation driving a snow plow. A whole year after the competition I was called into the chief.

The council had given him the go ahead to hire one more full-time person.

They offered me the job and I started in April ‘89.”

He was promoted to lieutenant in 2015, and became a captain in 2017.

He worked the Charlemagne Station, which was the former Cumberland full-time station, then at the Blackburn Fire Hall.

Over the past 36 years firefighting has dramatically changed with innovative solutions to the many never ending challenges modern day fires present.

“There has been a lot of progression in fire fighting,” said Bergeron.

 “When all of a sudden you become a great big city, there are more people to manage.”

There are more calls for service and greater expectations on firefighters, he said.

“Ottawa had a larger tax base and their own training division while the smaller towns operate on donations and fundraising.”

New building materials, chemicals in fabrics and lightweight construction all combine to make a modern day structure fire more deadly than in the past.

“Fire burns far (…) hotter and faster than the old legacy type construction,” said Bergeron.

“The way I was trained to fight fires is so different from the last day I left to the first day I got on.”

He explained that all the plastics, and synthetics used in modern construction cause a bedroom fire for example, with these new furnishings to reach flashover within five minutes.

“The old legacy furnishings and building materials could take up to 30 minutes.”

He said that while there is a great deal of attention paid to fire prevention as in smoke detectors, there is little if any consultation about construction materials and the building code with fire fighters.

“We are not consulted on the building code. That can be frustrating,” said Bergeron.

“They are allowing all kinds of building materials, and it’s all about open concept. Everything has to be wide open, no doors on anything so fire has a route to travel,” he said.

“When somebody’s life gets turned up side down we are in the middle of it.”

Being a firefighter has many challenges including answering calls for people that in a small community you probably know.

“There were lots of times when I would be in situations I did not want to be in.

You never heard what the results were. They never called you back to tell you if a person lived or died. You just went, you did your job to the best of your ability and you went back to the station and waited for the alarm to go off again.

Retirement for Bergeron and his family is based on his farm.

“I grew up working on the neighbours dairy farm when I was younger.

My wife grew up on a dairy farm as well. That is how we met through the cows and through the Junior Farmers’ Association. When we got married we found this little place in Hammond and we raise a few heifers and showed them at the shows. I have done some judging throughout the years,” he said.

In the end, after 36 years serving his community, Bergeron is returning to his beginnings on the farm.