Three decades of service in Fenwick
On Wednesday, October 29th, Pelham Station #2 firefighter George Popko attended his last training night before his retirement.
“I’ve been here for thirty-one years and three months,” said Popko. “You know, a year ago I was thinking that I’ve got a year left and it goes by so quick.”
Firefighters picked him up in a firetruck and took him on his final drive around the Fenwick area before returning to the station.
At the beginning of the training, the old fire siren was set off in honour of Popko and all that he has done for the station and the community.
“He is part of our foundation and helped build it. We couldn’t have gotten to where we are without him,” said Captain Dave Nicholes.
District Chief Adam Arbour expressed gratitude to Popko for helping train each of them to be a firefighter with skill, professionalism and humility, just as he did throughout his entire firefighting career.
Popko, who is 65, expressed his appreciation for his teammates and everything they have been through together—the fun experiences, the joking and the laughing.
“They’re the greatest bunch of guys in the fire department that you’ll ever have the pleasure of knowing,” said Popko.
He knows just how important it is to be a firefighter. Not everyone would get up at all hours of the night and during the day to rush out to save people and the community.
“You have to be a certain type of person to do this and to me, we’re special. We’re cut out for this,” Popko said.
Bad things happen all the time in firefighting and they make the best of it. They are a team and no one does anything by themselves, it’s all teamwork.
“You have to credit one and all. To our successes and our failures,” said Popko, “When we fail, well, you can blame all of us too.”
An especially interesting call that Popko attended during his last few months was on August 17. Popko, Mike Himerich and Marcel Morrin were sent to a home in Fenwick regarding chest pains.
“This particular case was, he was conscious,” said Popko. “He was talking and I thought it would be another one of those incidents, where the ambulance comes and everything was going to be fine.”
Popco says the man was sitting in a chair, went unconscious and his heart stopped. Firefighters moved him to the floor and started CPR immediately.
“Another firefighter was preparing the defib, put the pads on him and shocked him once and it was like a miracle, he came to,” said Popko, who added that no one had to be told to do anything—instinct, and years of training, kicked in.
“And I still pinch myself today. What happened? Did we actually save someone? Or maybe the big guy up above had something to do with it.”
One of Popko’s favourite duties was when he was on the extraction team. For ten years he practiced and competed in numerous competitions.
After being a firefighter for so long, Popko said that there will be some adjustment.
“I’m proud of the guys that we have, the training has come a long way and it continues to get better,” he said. “I’m leaving the department in good hands and I’m very impressed with the new recruits and the younger generation.”
“George can now turn off his pager and enjoy retirement,” said Arbour.
“The next Pelham 229 will have big boots to fill.”