It was announced last week that Ron Cust, Morinville Fire Chief for the past 12 years, will retire March 11, 2014. Ashley Janes had a chat with Chief Cust to look back on the past 12 years and ahead for himself and the department.
by Ashley Janes
Q: Why did you become a firefighter?
A: To drive really big trucks. And because, when people are running from a bad scene, we get to go in and do what we can to help people or save the property.
Q: How did you feel on your first day as Fire Chief?
A: I thought holy moly! I was scared as heck and I was right – it was way more pressure than I thought. At the same time, I was so proud of all the accomplishments, every time the firefighters saved a home or rescued a patient from their bad day.
Q: What aspect of your career was unexpectedly rewarding?
A: The times that I had chats with the firefighters and how intertwined their lives become with the Morinville Firefighter family. I was once asked to fill in at a wedding because one of the firefighters had passed away. The bride had me dance with her on behalf of her Dad.
Q: What will you miss the most about the job?
A: The strategy and focus to improve the fire department and take it to the next level of excellence. And the time with the firefighters, spending up to 20 hours a week in training or at the calls.
Q: What will you not miss about it?
A: I’ve had a fire radio on my hip since 1981 when I became the deputy chief. It is like carrying a baby around 24/7.
Q: What is your most memorable moment of the past 12 years as Morinville’s Fire Chief?
A: The delivery of the new trucks when they arrive and the look on the firefighters faces when they saw the new tools they had to do the job. The second was when the first class of 12 Student Firefighters from the Morinville Community High School graduated from the Morinville Fire Department Program. I knew that the future looked good.
Q: What are some of the major changes you witnessed throughout your term as Fire Chief?
A: The increase in population, call volume in the town, and increasing the roster to 50+ so we could have the firefighters available without burning out our few volunteers.
Q: How has being Fire Chief affected your life?
A: The ability to meet so many people through the position, in positive moments and when it is the worst day of their lives. My family of five has grown up as Fire Hall rats, resulting in Joshua and Jonathan serving as Firefighters and my daughter, Katherine, tuning them all in to keep the men in check.
Q: What kind of plans, if any, do you have for your retirement?
A: Six months reallocating the hours I spent as Fire Chief to some of my hobbies. Keeping my classic cars running and maybe take up golfing. I need lots of help with that. The Men’s Golf League is Wednesday nights and, since 1976, I have been at the Fire Station on Wednesdays.
Q: Do you have any advice for future generations of Morinville firefighters, and for your successor as Chief?
A: If you do what is the right action for your firefighters, they will follow you into the craziest places.