The man who has led the Penhold Volunteer Fire Department since 2009 has passed away.
The passing of fire chief James (Jim) Pendergast was announced by the fire department in a Facebook post Wednesday.
“He was our father, brother, leader and a mentor incomparable to anyone,” the Facebook post reads.
“When he started in the Penhold Fire Department in 2009 we had few members, old equipment and no training programs for volunteers. He strived to build and grow the organization and has more than attained that goal. The boots left behind seem impossible to fill.
“You will be dearly missed chief.”
Before coming to Penhold, Pendergast had previously served in Red Deer and Rocky View County. Overall, he had about 40 years of experience in the field.
Mayor Michael Yargeau said the town is in mourning after Pendergast’s passing.
“Jim was one of the most highly respected people in our community for everything he did for our fire department and the community in general,” Yargeau said.
“He touched everyone. When we got the news that he passed away, it was tough. The fire department, our group of men and women there, are a really tight-knot group, so I know it was hard on all of them.”
Since its inception, the fire department has grown to more than 30 full-time volunteers, Yargeau said, adding it now has a cadet program and another program that helps train high school students who want to become firefighters after graduation.
“The quality of our fleet has improved, as well as the quality of our equipment – that’s one thing that Jim was amazing at. It’s not cheap to run fire departments and they were able to find the equipment they needed at good prices,” he said.
“Jim made sure we had everything our men and women needed to do their jobs.”
Pendergast will be “greatly missed,” Yargeau noted.
“He was a one-of-a-kind guy and I really see it now after his passing. Firefighters from all over Canada that have known Jim throughout his career are reaching out to pass their condolences on. It really goes to show you what kind of person he was,” he said.