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Published on Monday, July 31, 2017

Oakville deputy fire chief calls it a career

Mayor Burton salutes chief's long, successful service

Oakville deputy fire chief calls it a career
Deputy Chief George Birtig
Oakville deputy fire chief calling it a career — Oakville Beaver file photo
By David Lea, Oakville Beaver

After more than 36 years with the fire services, Oakville Deputy Fire Chief George Birtig is calling it a career.

The local resident will retire from the Oakville Fire Department on Aug. 1, at which point he says he will join his wife in travelling and spending time with their grandson.

“It’s actually a bit surreal, but it is time for me to go,” said Birtig during his last day on the job.

“It’s been pretty amazing. The people have been fantastic. The Town of Oakville is an amazing organization. We’ve certainly gotten a lot of support along the way from our councillors and senior staff … Thirty-six years with the fire services has gone quick, but it has been very rewarding.”

Birtig’s career with the emergency services began in Thunder Bay where he served as a paramedic before becoming an airport firefighter at the Thunder Bay airport from 1981 to 1987.

He later joined the Thunder Bay fire department where he worked from 1987 to 1998.

Birtig spent the next 14 years with the Markham fire department where he was promoted to platoon chief.

In March 2013, Birtig joined the Oakville Fire Department where he has served as deputy chief with responsibilities ranging from ensuring all personnel are properly trained to bringing the fire service’s message of fire prevention to the public.

Birtig said some of the accomplishments he is most proud of include bringing an EpiPen program to Oakville.

Since January 2017, local firefighters now carry EpiPens, which could mean the difference between life and death for a person having a serious allergic reaction.

“I’m also proud of the fact we are maximizing the use of our training centre to keep our staff well trained and of excellent calibre to protect the citizens of Oakville,” said Birtig.

“We’re also trying to do a lot of outreach in our community — a lot more face-to-face with people to talk to them about fire safety.”

Fire Chief Brian Durdin called Birtig’s retirement well earned.

“He’s been a great part to our fire administration team,” said Durdin.

“He’s been a huge advocate for fire prevention and public education. He’s helped us increase our exposure to the public. He’s been our health and safety co-chair for a number of years so he has really been a great asset to the fire management team. We are certainly happy to see him off on his retirement. It is definitely well earned.”

Oakville Mayor Rob Burton also weighed in on Birtig’s retirement.

“For more than 35 years, Deputy Chief Birtig’s service has helped make residents in Oakville and across Ontario safer,” he said.

“Council thanks him for his years serving our community and others, and wish him and his family all the best in retirement.”

Durdin said a nationwide search for Birtig’s replacement is already being conducted by the headhunting organization Odgers Berndtson.

He is hopeful a replacement will be in place in three to four months.

In the meantime, Durdin and deputy fire chiefs Andy Glynn and Paul Boissonneault will be divvying up Birtig’s responsibilities.

“The fire department is in good hands,” said Birtig.

“That’s for sure.”
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Author: Mayor Rob Burton

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