Credited as the “heart and soul” of the Chelmsford Fire Station, volunteer firefighters joined city officials in celebrating Claude Daoust’s 50 years of service on Wednesday evening.
“For him, it’s duty first,” Ward 3 Coun. Gerry Montpellier said, adding that they were lucky there weren’t any calls for service in the Chelmsford area, because Daoust would have been first out the door.
“Captain Claude is the heart and soul of this station,” Capt. Jeff Scarrow told Sudbury.com. “He has kept this place together and built comradery up, and without him we wouldn’t be as strong as we are.”
Daoust’s determined nature has rubbed off on those around him, Scarrow said, adding that he has never been one to let his community down.
“He’s always there, every chance, whether it’s the middle of the night, day, whether he’s got a fishing tournament to go to, he’s there.”
During Wednesday’s celebration at the Chelmsford Fire Station, Fire and Paramedic Services Chief Joseph Nicholls presented Daoust with a trophy thanking him for 50 years of service, and Mayor Paul Lefebvre handed him an award of distinction on behalf of the city.
In conversation with Sudbury.com, Daoust shrugged off his 50 years of volunteer firefighter service as an obvious thing for him to have done.
“Born here, raised here, so...” he said with a shrug.
“It’s been fun here,” he later added. “It’s a good group, it’s like a secondary family. You get along with each other, and if someone needs help you give them a hand.”
Although Chelmsford’s volunteer firefighter community came together to celebrate his 50 years of service, Daoust said there are a few more years on top of that, but they were off the books. After all, you’re only allowed to officially begin serving the department at age 18.
“In a small community, you used all the help you could get, so I was using my dad’s badge to get out of high school to go on calls,” Daoust said, clarifying that his father, Wilfrid, served the Chelmsford station for 25 years until his death in 1983.
After a while, his teachers would know that when the siren sounded that he would be ducking out of class to help the official volunteer firefighters.
There have been numerous memorable calls over the years — “Basically, you name it,” he said.
Explosions, train derailment, motor vehicle collisions, drownings, rescuing horses from the river. Whatever has been needed, Daoust would join fellow volunteers to help.
Daoust’s son, Eric, followed in his footsteps as the family’s third generation to become a volunteer firefighter.
Starting out in Chelmsford, Eric now volunteers with the Waters Fire Station.
“When we were kids we used to live down the street from a fire hall ... so you run down to the corner of the street and watch them go,” he said, adding that it was “in his blood” to join as a volunteer firefighter as soon as he could when he came of age in 2005.
His father’s achievement is a milestone for not only their family and community, but also the field of volunteer firefighting.
“I don’t think there are many in the province who achieve 50 years of service, so it’s pretty overwhelming,” Eric said. “I’m very proud of him, and he’s a gentleman who a lot of people in the service look up to.”
Having hit 50 years with the Chelmsford Fire Station, the nagging question of how much longer Daoust will continue serving his community in this capacity was raised a few times during Wednesday’s event.
The prevailing retort was that Daoust should probably just stick around.
Scarrow summarized this sentiment when he said, “The size of his feet has nothing to do with the boots we’ll need to have filled.”
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.