FDNH Captain Russell Nesbitt calls it a career after more than 30 years
BY SCOTT STEPHENSON
Captain Russell Nesbitt has retired from the Fire Department of North Huron after 30 years of service.
A great community is made up of dedicated individuals performing vital services, and it is hard to imagine a more vital part of any community than its fire brigade. Firefighting is hard work, both physically and emotionally - for that reason, it is rare for one person to serve for three entire decades. North Huron and Huron East Fire Chief Kent Readman feels that it’s hard to overstate the impact Nesbitt has had on his community. “It is rare in today’s fire service to see people reach this milestone and is something that should be truly celebrated as this type of commitment comes with a lot of personal sacrifice. Captain Nesbitt has impacted the lives of many of the people he has served over the years and has provided a strong and consistent leadership presence within our fire department.”
Nesbitt’s long and storied career of public service has a very simple origin story. “One day, the old fire chief, Paul Josling, approached me and asked if I’d be interested in a position… and that was it, 30 years ago,” laughed Nesbitt. Equally simple is his reason for retiring. “Firefighting is a young man’s game… it’s a lot of physical labour!”
Between these two points is a lifetime of quick decision making. “The first five or 10 minutes of a fire set the precedent for the rest of the call… you’re trying to minimize damage, you’re trying to save lives. You’ve got a lot of decisions to make in a short period of time.”
Much has changed since he started out. “It’s unbelievable how much transformation has occurred… the trucks are bigger and better in every way - designed incredibly well and comfortable.” That’s a far cry from the early days, riding in a jump seat in frigid temperatures. “It was a little more rugged,” he recalled.
The equipment necessary to fight fires has also gone through a number of significant upgrades over the past three decades. Air packs are the lifeline for any firefighter, bringing breathable air into hostile environments, and they have changed a lot. “Some of the new packs now have infrared built right into the visors… it would have been a dream 30 years ago to even think that was possible.”
It’s also been a lifetime of memory making.
“The trucks don’t turn a wheel without a person driving it - our manpower is our best asset… the camaraderie and the teamwork, that’s the stuff you remember, I mean, the work gets done, but it’s those bonds and those relationships you rely on. They’re counting on you, and you’re counting on them.”
Another essential teammate that made Nesbitt’s marathon stretch as a firefighter possible is his wife, Kerry. “I couldn’t do anything without her… she’s the glue that took care of the family.” Kerry became used to 30 years of sudden disappearances and changed plans, and she is looking forward to a less complicated schedule. “It’s going to be a whole lot different for me,” she laughed. As for Captain Nesbitt, he’s in search of a new hobby with relaxation in mind.
Nesbitt’s advice for anybody thinking of going into firefighting is simple. “If it interests you at all, try it out.”