Fighting fires is in the Penhold fire chief’s blood.
Growing up, Jim Pendergast got an early start in his firefighting career. His father was a firefighter and fire chief in the Air Force in New Brunswick. His parents used to joke that he started responding to fire alarms at age two. The fire chief’s housing was attached to the fire hall.
“When the alarm went, the first two things on the firetruck was me and our cat,” he said. “I’ve kind of been doing that ever since.”
Penhold town council recently saluted Pendergast, who has been fire chief in the town since 2009, with an Alberta Emergency Services medal to celebrate 32 years of service in Alberta.
“It’s a great honour and certainly very humbling. Most kids grow up wanting to be a firefighter and to get to actually do it is a dream come true.
“If you love your work you never have to work a day in your life, so I’ve been extremely lucky,” said Pendergast.
Pendergast has been a firefighter for 38 years, previously serving in Red Deer and Rocky View County. The Alberta Emergency Services medal is presented at 12, 22, 32 and 40 years.
Every day is different as a firefighter, Pendergast said.
“Most days are good days and the bad days you don’t really want to talk about. The working relationships and camaraderie has been amazing on every crew I’ve been on.
“We were always really tight as a crew and we did everything as a crew, even off-shift we’d go each other’s houses and party or go golfing together,” he said.
The Town of Penhold has changed a lot during his nine years as fire chief.
“Once the town built the multiplex, the whole town seemed to explode residentially and commercially,” he said. “All of a sudden the call volume and the work just exploded – every year it’s busier and busier. But I’m so lucky because the firefighters do all the work and are so awesome.”
Pendergast said he’s looking forward to reaching 40 years.
“It’s been a fun, fun ride,” Pendergast said.
“I wouldn’t be able to do it without the support of my family,” he added. “My wife has been very supportive. If you’re working shifts as a firefighter … you miss out on a lot of things with your family and your kids; suppers, Christmas concerts, hockey games.”