By Pauline Kerr, Advance-Times staff
Bill Doig, chief of the Howick Fire Department, has retired after 28 years of pagers going off at any hour of the day or night, having family events and work interrupted, and putting his life on the line for his neighbours and community.
Doig joined the fire service when the Wingham and Area Fire Board was formed in 1984. At that time, a call went out for volunteers, and Doig responded. “It seems like yesterday,” he said. Since then he’s climbed through the ranks, and when the board disbanded and Howick formed its own fire department, Doig took the helm as chief. “I always thought we needed a department here,” he said.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” Doig said at his retirement celebration June 16 at the Howick Community Centre.
His greatest point of pride is that during his watch, no firefighter was seriously injured. “We all got to go home,” said the chief.
He spoke to the crowd of well-wishers Saturday, sharing some of his memories. He spoke highly of Harley Gaunt and Lynn Hickey, retired chief and deputy chief of the Wingham and Area Fire Department. “They trained me,” said Doig with a smile.
At his retirement celebration, he thanked his wife Shirley for her support over the years. And he thanked his children. Both stood by him under sometimes difficult circumstances. He recalled how, when he operated his auto repair business, the pager would go off and he’d drop everything to respond to the call. His kids would pitch in, pumping gas and talking to customers. “When the call came in the middle of the night, everyone would be up,” Doig recalled.
He thanked his officers, the firefighters (“great guys,” in Doig’s words), Reeve Art Versteeg, council, and municipal staff for their assistance. And most of all, he thanked the citizens of Howick Township.
When asked what he remembers the most from his 28 years with the fire department, Doig was quick to answer, “The men.”
Serving the community, and looking after his men’s safety, was what the past 28 years have been about, for Doig. When asked why he stayed for 28 years, he answered, “The township needed me and I wanted to do what I could.” He added, “It gets in the blood.”
Versteeg referred to Doig as “a real servant to the township… Bill always wanted what was best for Howick, and best for the fire department.”
Among the people who offered words of congratulations and made presentations to Doig Saturday were Versteeg, Morris-Turnberry Mayor Paul Gowing – “Bill’s our fire chief, too,” Thom Evered from the Ontario Fire Marshall’s Office, and Bill Graham who spoke on behalf of his fellow Howick firefighters.