Letters & Opinion Stories of Caledon

Outgoing District Chief Pens Heartfelt Letter About 306

Daryl, Dave, Scott with Councillor Nick deBoer
Submitted to Just Sayin' Caledon

Photo above (contributed): Left to right: District Chief 306 Daryl Roy, Caledon’s Fire Chief Dave Pelayo, retired District Chief  306 Scott Jay, Caledon Councillor Nick deBoer

The following letter was submitted to JSC for publication. It was written by Scott Jay, recently retired District Chief 306 (Palgrave), Caledon Fire and Emergency Services

When I first joined station 6, as we were known then, I discovered that we also had a nickname, Hilton’s Heroes. Chief Robert (Bob) Hilton was Caledon’s first Fire Chief, tasked with joining together sixFire Departments into one.

At the time he was hired, Chief Hilton was a Toronto full-time (FT) firefighter, but he was also a proud Palgrave volunteer firefighter. His first priority was upgrading the radios and a paging system so that everyone could communicate. When he took over an air raid siren and fire phone system (a rotary phone, which some of you may have to ask your parents what this is) were the method used to alert volunteers to a fire call.

We were all issued a lunch box sized “squawk box”. Yes, I was around long enough to have been issued one of these. It was a pager, but very heavy, if you attached it to your belt your pants would quickly be on the ground. Boy were they loud, if you turned up the volume you would wake up the neighbours, 3 doors down. When you get a chance, I would encourage you to read the book Answering the Call, A History of Firefighting in the Town of Caledon. You will see how important to the town, and Palgrave in particular, Chief Hilton was. We were proud to be known as Hilton’s Heroes. I hope the Town will agree to name the Palgrave firehall after Chief Bob Hilton, it is a tradition to be proud of.

I still think of Palgrave volunteers as Hilton’s Heroes. In 2018 a Fire Chief’s Citation for Bravery was presented to Brendan Cook, Eric Gravenish and Connor Bowles. These 3 volunteers went into the basement of a burning house to rescue 2 trapped firefighters when a mayday was called. That’s bravery!

Palgrave’s District Chief (DC) Daryl Roy, as of January 1st this year, has been awarded both an Ontario Medal for Bravery and a Canadian Medal for Bravery. Daryl and his full-time crew went into a burning warehouse in Mississauga, which exploded just after their entry. Daryl was thrown through the door, landing 20’ into the parking lot. His mask and helmet were blown off. When he came to his senses he raced back into the burning building without his mask and helmet. He rescued 2 downed firefighters, and suffered smoke inhalation in the process, requiring hospitalization. Daryl doesn’t talk about this much. I heard the story from one of the firefighters that Daryl dug out from under a block wall that had collapsed on him. This firefighter suffered life threatening crushing injuries. According to him, he is alive today because of the heroic actions of Daryl, your new DC.

A more recent example of heroism, firefighters Shawn Varrall (2023 recipient of firefighter of the year at 306) and new recruit Jackson Merrizzi performed CPR on a woman. It was Jackson’s first time. Together with Shawn’s guidance they were able to give that woman another chance at life. These are just a few examples of bravery exhibited by these firefighters. They are heroes. I like to think of them as Hilton’s Heroes, and every time they answer the call, they are a hero. They should always be proud of being a Palgrave volunteer – a Hilton’s Hero – I know I am.

I once had a FT firefighter tell me that he felt safer running calls with us at Palgrave than he did with his full-time department. I’m not sure if he knew how proud he made me feel hearing that.

As I go out the door, 306 has never been so strong. I’m not just talking about the numbers, I’m talking about the experience, strength, teamwork and attitude of all of its members. It is a very strong family. You are going to be in very good hands with DC Daryl Roy, Captain (Capt.) Kevin Wilson, Capt. Bryan Robertson, Capt. Leo Olivera, Capt. Breck Nordheimer, Acting Capt. and Lead Training Instructor Connor Bowles, Training Instructor Shawn Varrall, Training Instructor David Grixti, Medical Instructor Petra Meijer, and Medical Instructor Melissa Leblanc. I also have to mention John Keenan (Tanker John), always a welcome sight in the front right seat.

This is a very impressive group. It is leadership to be proud of. I would put the members of 306 up against any station, full-time or volunteer. With me leaving, I am very confident that under the leadership strength of Daryl and Kevin, and an extremely strong group of officers including Leo, Bryan and Breck, they will continue what 306 has been known for around the town – we don’t hide in the trucks, we get in there, we get the job done and we get everyone home safe to their families ASAP.

Firefighters at 306

Yes, I have my stories, how I got the nickname Chief Dark Cloud, how I was in command of the Palgrave 3-day walkathon, grass/forest/barn fire, etc. etc. As many of you know, I could go on and on, but this letter is getting long enough. I will save these stories to happily share over a coffee or beer someday. I am very proud to have served along side the many Palgrave volunteers over the years.

As volunteer firefighters we can’t forget to thank our families, and often. They are the ones picking up the slack while we are serving our community. Listening to our crazy stories when we come home smelling like a barn fire or worse. Without my wife Ruby and my family’s support there is no way I would have been able to do this for so long. Over that coffee or beer ask me how when we were dating Ruby passed the volunteer firefighter future spouse test with flying colours.

Signed,

Scott Jay

Retired District Chief 306, Caledon Fire & Emergency Services

A very proud member of 306, Stn #6, A Hilton’s Hero

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Just Sayin' Caledon

Just Sayin’ Caledon brings you stories about Caledon people, places and events.

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8 Comments

  • Thank you chief for this article. It was an honour having you as my DC for my first few months as a new recruit. We all appreciate you !!!

  • It was a pleasure to work alongside you Chief – I only wish I began my fire career earlier to have had more time doing so. Thank you for always lending a helping hand and a listening ear. It was always greatly appreciated.

    To a well earned and much deserved retirement.

  • This hall is in the great shape it is thanks to you Chief! and a man named Dash. You two laid the foundation for the past two decades. Tough boots to fill I’ll tell you that!!! It was an absolute honour to serve with you!!! The hall and the entire community will miss you Chief!!! Now it’s time to travel and rest!!!!! I know Ruby agrees lol

  • Cheif Jay, it was an honour serving under your leadership! We all thank you for everything that you have done.

  • Chief Jay, thank you for so many dedicated years of service, ensuring Station 306 ran smoothly and everyone got home safely. We all value your mentoring and continued friendship, wishing you nothing but the best in your next chapter. Enjoy retirement!!

  • Chief Jay, it was an absolute pleasure to serve with you. The passion and dedication that you brought to the hall and to the community was truly remarkable. Hope you enjoy your retirement and thank you for everything you have done!

  • Chief Jay, Thank you for your fearless service and dedication to our community. It has been an honour to serve under your leadership. You will always be remembered as one of the Hilton’s Heroes at Station 306 (Palgrave)
    Rest assured 306 will be “Answering The Call” to our community which you graciously worked so hard at protecting.
    Happy Retirement.

  • Congratulations on your retirement Scott. It was a pleasure to work with you. I always admired your ability to lead; your caring and unwavering commitment to the men and women under your command. Enjoy yourself with your wife and family. You will be missed!