Sparling honoured upon retirement from Fire Department - April 6, 2017
BY SHAWN LOUGHLIN
Last Thursday at a private gathering among family, friends and colleagues, Blyth’s David Sparling officially said goodbye to the world of firefighting after over 25 years.
Sparling told the dozens assembled that he had a hard time believing he had been a firefighter for over 25 years. He said that time flies when you’re having fun and he was having plenty of fun as a member of the Blyth Fire Department and then the amalgamated Fire Department of North Huron (FDNH).
“I can’t believe I’ve been doing this for 25 years,” Sparling said. “It sure doesn’t seem like it.”
Sparling said he began his firefighting career at the age of 22 and the following 25 years just flew by. He also said he was surprised that it had been seven years since the formation of the FDNH, saying he could still hear then-Chief John Black talking about the importance of getting through year one.
After Black passed away and Sparling was chosen to be the department’s chief, Sparling said his career entered a new chapter – one in which he takes great pride.
“I’ve been really proud to serve as your chief for the last three and a half years,” he said to his fellow members of the FDNH. “I hope you can be proud of the department we’ve become.”
Sparling also reflected on a number of specific emergency calls over the years that stuck out in his mind.
Of course, he said, every firefighter remembers his first call. Sparling says his was for the child of Clarence Bailey, who was also a local firefighter at the time. The child was choking on a piece of Lego. The blockage was cleared by firefighters and the child survived.
One of the worst calls Sparling attended was when he had to attempt to defibrillate a member of the Clinton Fire Department. The firefighter didn’t make it, Sparling said as he fought back tears, and he’ll always remember that.
One of the most stressful times he encountered was when he was off the job for six months due to a back injury.
Sparling said that although he was the chief of the department, he could only be as successful as his firefighters and support network would allow him to be. He thanked North Huron Council, as well as neighbouring councils like Central Huron, Morris-Turnberry and Ashfield-Colborne-Wawanosh for their support over the years.
“North Huron Council let us be all that we could be and that takes a lot of courage and trust,” Sparling said.
And while he thanked local media and staff at both North Huron and the Emergency Services Training Centre, Sparling said the success of the department ultimately fell to its members.
“The reality is that you bank heavily on your team and the reality is that my team never let me down,” Sparling said.
Sparling also thanked his wife Annie and children Reece, Sam and Sarah for their ongoing support, saying he couldn’t have had the career he had without the support of his family.
Chad Kregar, one of the department’s deputy-chiefs, said he was consistently impressed by Sparling’s work ethic and his dedication to the department.
On two of the pair’s road trips, Kregar said Sparling’s dedication to the department, even on the road, blew him away. After coming back late to the hotel after a night out, Kregar said he was ready for bed only to find that Sparling was still up, even at the late hour, studying and ensuring that residents paying taxes to fund the department got their money’s worth.
He said he hoped to one day be as dedicated to the department as Sparling was, saying he inspired him to be a better firefighter.
Rick Finnemore, a Fire Protection Advisor with the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office, said he could clearly see that Sparling was an appreciated member of the community, both as a firefighter and as a citizen.
“It’s clear that David is another one of the great chiefs in the province,” Finnemore said. “You’re part of the living history of this community.”
Sparling also spoke glowingly about the Emergency Services Training Centre, saying that he and his staff have done a lot of work in an effort to make the centre live up to its potential and he hopes that trend will continue.
As part of the ceremony, Sparling was presented with a number of tokens of appreciation from the local firefighter associations, the captains of the department and the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office.
Sparling’s time with the Fire Department of North Huron officially ended on Friday afternoon, giving way to Ryan Ladner, who will now assume the role of chief of the department and principal of the Emergency Services Training Centre. Sparling officially joined Blyth Cowbell Brewing Company, which he partly owns, on Monday.