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An art display of hearts on Water Street in Shelburne, each with a name of a fire department that helped during the 2023 Shelburne County wildfires (Acadia News Photo)

‘Thank you is not enough.’ Firefighters honoured in Shelburne County

By Kevin Northup Jun 3, 2024 | 6:00 AM

Honouring those who helped Shelburne County through its darkest time.

A brand-new art display on Water Street in Shelburne was unveiled on Saturday.

Sixty-six red hearts on a fence, each with the name of a fire department that battled last year’s Barrington Lake wildfire, the largest in our province’s history.

Students from Shelburne Regional High School created the hearts.

Grade 11 student Jeremy Quinlan and all the students were on hand.

“It makes me feel proud that they can see this forever, and they will feel thanked,” said Quinlan, who’s family took in wildfire evacuees.

Local resident Pam Mingo and teacher Les Goulden facilitated the art display and ceremony.

“The town supported this immensely, and it was incredible how everyone came to thank the firefighters,” said Mingo.

The students were also presented with a coin from Greg Jones, president of the Fire Service Association of Nova Scotia.

“This art installment is truly amazing, you should be very proud as a community, as organizers and students for the efforts on this to focus on the fire service and the community,” said Jones.

Tina Saryeddine of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs also came in from Ottawa for the ceremony.

“It’s a ‘work of heart.’ It reflects how firefighters feel about their communities and the work they do for us. It reflects how the community feels about firefighters. Communities have taken a deep affection for all firefighters. We thank the students so much for this art display.”

Politicians from all levels of government were also on hand for the ceremony.

South Shore/St. Margarets MP Rick Perkins, along with Shelburne MLA Nolan Young, Municipality of Shelburne Warden Penny Smith and Municipality of Barrington Warden Eddie Nickerson.

“The community doesn’t want to experience another event like this. We have to be a lot safer and watch what we do around fires. I’ve heard it throughout Barrington, we go at a higher alert when we see smoke and fire. I want to thank the firefighters for saving our community,” said Nickerson.

“We will always be Shelburne County Strong, and Nova Scotia Strong, you’re our heroes,” added Warden Smith.

“This art display will be a reminder of the love that the community has for all those across the province and other provinces that came to battle this and save our community and bring us together,” said Perkins.

“When the flames threatened our communities, you didn’t hesitate. You helped protect our homes and our way of life, thank you firefighters for your hard work and dedication,” said Young.

Firefighters honoured by tribute

Dozens of firefighters lined the fence during the tribute, they were given a standing ovation by those in attendance.

Shelburne fire chief Darrell Locke says it means a lot.

“It’s pretty humbling. The students did a great job and it’s a beautiful presentation.”

When asked on his memories of last year, he remembers an urgent time.

“We initially did evacuation notices to tell folks they needed to get on the move, and going back to the same location and the house being gone. I remember the food preparation and caring for the firefighters and our friends and neighbours that came in. It’s a reminder of the efforts of 67 departments that mobilized. They sure did help, we needed them and they came.”

Waterville fire chief Jeff Greer says they were called to help with a secondary landfill fire in the county.

“Our job was to put water on that, the firefighters from Shelburne were quite exhausted from the wildfire, and the landfill added a lot onto that. One of the chiefs from Kingston, he took over that fire and asked us to come down. We have a special truck that pumps 2,500 gallons of water a minute, and we were able to help out that way,” said Greer.

“We serve the public regardless of the situation, we have to use our knowledge and skill to keep everyone safe, and this was one more example on how important what you do is.” added N.S. chief Jones.

Benefit held in Barrington

Later in Barrington, a benefit supper and dance featuring country singer Cruz Vallis.

Among the smiles and gratitude, there were tears and reflection.

Paula Sutherland and a crew of volunteers started planning for this a year ago.

“To see all these firefighters come together, they’ve healed through this, and that’s what this was for, to heal,” said Sutherland.

Each fire department and community group was presented a ‘Shelburne County Strong’ medal and certificate from the province.

Over $32,000 will go back to the local fire departments in the area.

Those who ran the free store at the Barrington Arena and the meals at the Lions Club were also recognized, as were many other community businesses and organizations who helped out.

“There are no words. Everyone stepped up in our time of need with no questions asked. We put in a lot of hours to thank them properly, thank you is not enough,” added Sutherland.

‘We are one strong county, together.’

A large Canadian flag outside the Sandy Wickens Memorial Arena in Barrington during a benefit for firefighters on June 1, 2024 (Acadia News Photo)