He’s a thinker and a planner. Mark Urquhart’s been on the job as Merrickville-Wolford’s Fire Chief for less than a month and already has two ideas he wants to put into play. He wants to create junior and auxiliary members to the fire department. This is his way of getting youth interested and involved (and have a trained crew on hand when they turn 18), and to also keep the deep knowledge and understanding in the department by calling on the ‘old guys’ who don’t want to be as active anymore but want to stay connected.
Urquhart’s two-pronged career spans 33 years as a paramedic and a volunteer firefighter. At the age of 14 he knew what he wanted to do; at the age of 18, in Gr. 13, he was kicked out of school and told to go to work, Urquhart says with a grin. That was probably because his pager kept going off and he’d have to leave to get to the ambulance.
That wasn’t the end of his schooling, though. He went to Algonquin College for the Ambulance Emergency Care program, graduated, and wrote his Emergency Medical Care Assistant papers, which allowed him to work full time in Ontario. In 1985 was hired in Brockville and he stayed there until 1989 at which time he, and the owner of the ambulance service, became the “youngest owner and supervisor” of an ambulance service in Ontario. He was 23 and the owner was 25.
On reflection, he says, “I really didn’t know the responsibilities at that time. I didn’t have the training.”
So he moved forward to get the training. First following his passion as a paramedic, and second becoming a volunteer firefighter. He’s been in the fire service for 25 years.
Before Merrickville he worked out of Lansdowne Station for 19 years with the Leeds and 1000 Islands Fire Service.
The secret about the joy and passion in his life, he says, is he teaches what he has learned. “I had good partners and great mentors who understood common sense,” he says.
Urquhart values both common sense and logic, and teaches using personal anecdotes and stories. As a matter of fact, there’s nothing he enjoys more than seeing men and women he’s taught out in the field putting his lessons into action.
Soon to be 52, he says he’ll never retire — he’ll just move on and learn something else; he’s the type of man who “enjoys doing something different all the time.”
This article first appeared in the May issue of Hometown News.