Mulmur Melancthon Fire Chief retires

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Turning 65 comes with big changes for Mulmur-Melancthon Fire Department outgoing Fire Chief Jim Clayton.
After 30 years he is retiring from his role as chief, but is also retiring from his 20-year job at KTH and he and his wife have sold their house and are moving north.
“It has been a real honour to serve the community,” he said. “I’ve always treated the fire department as a place for the men to go and have a good time but when the alarm came in, we all put on our professional hats and did the best job we could do. In the 30 years, we’ve always had a great crew of people and we’ve always got along with our neighbours in other departments. When they talk about fire departments being a big family, that’s exactly what it is.”
Clayton started his career in the 1970s right out of college as an ambulance driver in Ajax-Pickering. He and his wife decided to move to the country and built a home in the Shelburne area. After commuting back down to work in Mississauga for a while, Clayton got a job at KTH in Shelburne, where chassis are built for Honda.
At that time, in 1988, he was a new member of the volunteer fire department in Honeywood. The department had 19 members – including four captains, a chief and a deputy chief – and two vehicles.
Clayton recalls life as a fire fighter being quite different in those early days.
Crews responded to fires in an open cab American LaFrance pumper.
“It was quite something in the wintertime to be driving that truck,” said Clayton. And we had an old truck called a Rio, which was a tanker, and it was an antique at the time.”
The department covered Melancthon and Mulmur, about 150 square miles.
Clayton would leave work to respond to calls, on average about 60 calls per year. His employer also allowed him to take time off to train at the Fire College and he moved up the ranks to captain and deputy chief, and has been chief now for 19 years.
“The two municipalities are smaller municipalities with small tax bases and it was always a challenge when we were looking for new equipment. We’d have to save and spend the money very wisely,” said Clayton. “When we decided to build a fire hall (in about 2001) we looked at a fire hall that we were building for the next 25 years and we built what we consider to be a state of the art hall to serve the needs of the communities and the needs of the firefighters for both training as well as housing the fire equipment.”
It has four bays for the four apparatus that the department now uses to respond to just under 100 calls per year.
“For a small community like this it’s a real achievement to have that kind of equipment,” said Clayton.
“We don’t have a lot of structure fires but when we do they are significant,” he said, recalling the Tupling Farm fire as the biggest of his career. “We have some of the more expensive houses in our community, being in the golden hills of Mulmur. It’s quite concerning for the residents who live in these homes that we do have everything in place in case something does happen.”
The major roads that cross the municipalities also require firefighters to be first responders at collisions, which is the majority of their calls, along with grass and forest fires. Because of the diversity of the calls, volunteer firefighters have to be well trained for many scenarios.
It was a 24/7 job that forced him from his bed at night.
“As fire chief you don’t just roll over and say someone can get it. You have to make sure you are up and leading the crew and making sure everything is done right,” said Clayton.
The Claytons are moving to McKellar, to their new lakeside home where they will spend time fishing.
“With all of the changes in our lives I am not missing it currently but I do like to listen to my radio and see what’s going on in the area… I honestly have to say I am enjoying my time at home and not having the responsibility,” he said.
Clayton will be recognized for his years of service at a town hall meeting on Saturday, Sept. 28, beginning at 9:30 a.m.
As of August 1, Mulmur-Melancthon Fire Department has been under the command of Scott Davison, with Deputy Fire Chief Mathew Waterfield appointed on August 7.
Davison first volunteered for the fire service in Grand Valley when he was 19.
“I wanted to get involved in my community. I have loved it since day one,” he said. “The friendships that I have made will last a lifetime and I enjoy being able to help someone in their time of need.”
After moving to Mulmur in 2017 he joined the Mulmur-Melancthon department, making captain in early 2019.
“I developed a passion for leading a team throughout my 11 years as a firefighter and captain. When the opportunity to lead the department as Fire Chief became available… it was a great opportunity to use the skills I have developed to provide the best possible fire service to our municipalities,” said Davison.
He said with increased calls comes added demand on staff and equipment, making it important to plan for the recruitment, training and equipment required to safely and efficiently answer any emergency call.
“It is also critical for a fire chief to recognize the commitment volunteer firefighters and their families make, they spend countless hours away from home training and responding to emergencies at all hours of the day,” said Davison.

Contributed photo: Outgoing Mulmur-Melancthon Fire Department Chief Jim Clayton (left) shakes hands with new Fire Chief Scott Davison.

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