Almost 35 accomplished years as a firefighter in the City of Moncton, but tomorrow will be Deputy Chief Don McCabe’s last day on the job .
The 60 year old made to the difficult decision to retire, earlier than expected, due to a medical issue.
McCabe says he collapsed at his son’s house a few months ago. His son performed CPR, and ultimately saved his father’s life.
“I kind of looked at things then, and it was going to be a long recovery. I made the choice to retire. It was hard at first to accept it, but I think I am totally accepting the fact that I am going to retire,” McCabe told us.
McCabe worked his way through the ranks, starting as a firefighter, to Officer, then Training Officer, and then Division Chief…
This makes years of teaching first responders even more special to the Deputy Chief, “The start of our First Responders program was great. I know it has saved people’s lives. Someone said to me the other day, that I spent half my career teaching First Responders and then it actually saved my own life, so that is a nice reward for something done.”
McCabe says the fire department is a big family. On Christmas Day, both his son Jeremy, who is also a Moncton firefighter, and his daughter, who is a 911 Dispatcher, were both working. “The crew at Station 3 invited my wife and I for Christmas dinner with them, which I thought was really special. Being a Manager, there is a lot of separation between union and Management, so it was nice to do that.”
McCabe says that family extends outside of New Brunswick as well, “One thing about the fire service, is it is all about teamwork. It is hard to say, “I did this”. It usually takes a team to make things work at the station, and at the fire scene. I also remember one day we were camping in PEI and we has lost a couple of bolts off the tent trailer. I mentioned in at the gate, to a man who was a volunteer firefighter, and while I was asleep, they were already jacking up my trailer to replace the two missing bolts.”
He is proud that when he started as Deputy Chief, he was able to build on relationships,”It’s hard to look at a 35 year career and have one thing stick out. There are certainly things that I am proud of. Relationship building was one of the big ones. Relationships within the department, relationships within our department ins in the city, relationships with the media and relationships with the RCMP. Those are things that I thought were lacking when I became Deputy Chief, almost 13 years ago.”
He also offered advice to his successor as Deputy Chief, “Two words. Communication and approachability. Be a good communicator. Let people know what you are doing. Ensure that everyone knows what side of the coin you are on and what direction you are going, because they can help you get there. You can’t do it by yourself. You need cooperation from the Chief Officers, the crews, and the Union. It all boils down to Communications. People also have to know that you’re approachable, that they can talk to you. A young firefighter should be able to talk to a Deputy Chief.”
As to what he does now? “I think I am just going to enjoy retirement right now. I gave up a lot of my life to the fire department, which I am very proud of. I taught on weekends, and volunteered. My wife was very understanding with that.”
I wouldn’t doubt we’ll see him around a firehall in the future though, “I don’t want to lose touch with firefighting. I would like to teach again, because I love seeing people learn. But I can’t be out of the game too long though, because then they forget about you,” McCabe joked.
His official last day as the Deputy Chief, is Friday December 29th.