Fire chief announces retirement

By Lindsay Advocate

Fire Chief Mark Pankhurst has announced his retirement, effective June 30, 2021, after more than 32 years of exemplary service to public safety.

Pankhurst has been in his present role for 10 years and has been with the city, and the former Mariposa Township, for more than 28 years in various positions within the Fire Service. He started his career in 1989 with Ajax Fire and Emergency Services, before assuming the role of Fire Chief with Rama Fire in 2001, and then coming to Kawartha Lakes full time in 2009.

Although Pankhurst has always been a career firefighter, he also proudly served as a “double hatter” for many years as a volunteer firefighter in Little Britain, according to a media release from the city. Throughout his career, he played an instrumental role in advocating for the Ford Government’s passing of legislation for protection of double hatter firefighters in the Province of Ontario.

Health and safety has been Pankhurst’s top priority throughout his career. He endorsed the first two lines of defense — public education and fire prevention through code enforcement and standards for the protection of our residents and firefighters. Pankhurst also championed and oversaw the development and implementation of mental health supports and wellness programs for firefighters and implemented a multi-year project for the continued development of a central training facility, including a burn tower.

Over the years, Pankhurst has lost many colleagues, friends, and family members, to devastating job-related cancers and has championed ways to reduce acute and chronic exposure to carcinogens. He was responsible for implementing diesel exhaust extractors in all fire stations, proper decontamination and hygiene practices for firefighters, bunker gear washing facilities for contaminated gear and, new Self-Contained Breathing Apparatus.

None of Pankhurst’s achievements would have been possible without the support of his wife Lynn, who is also retiring after 32 years as an Educational Assistant with the Durham Board of Education, as well as his children and their families. He is thankful for the support of his family when emergencies had to take precedence and looks forward to enjoying more time with them in retirement.

Pankhurst’s second family is his Fire Administration team, who have made coming to work very enjoyable. Without their dedication, the Fire Rescue Service would not be where it is today. In addition, he is thankful for the commitment and dedication of the firefighters who serve their communities with pride. He will miss working with each of them and will continue to feel proud of all that they accomplish together, says the media release. There are also many people within City Hall, Senior Management Team, Kawartha Lakes Police and Paramedics and the OPP that he has enjoyed working alongside for many years.

“There are so many people that I would like to thank and acknowledge, and I hope to be able to see all of you after we get past our present COVID-19 emergency. I would be remiss if I did not recognize the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs (OAFC) Board of Directors, OAFC colleagues, Section 21 colleagues, the Kawartha Lakes Professional Firefighters IAFF Local 1701 and the Kawartha Lakes Volunteer Firefighters CUPE Local 5453. Thank you all for being a huge part of my career.”

Chief Pankhurst has many interests outside of the Fire Service, and he is looking forward to getting back to some hobbies, spending lots of time at the cottage and enjoying time with family and friends.

“I have complete confidence that the Kawartha Lakes Fire Rescue Service will continue to provide the highest level of service moving forward as a team, and I send everyone best wishes and hope for continued success. Thank you for the privilege and opportunity to be your Fire Chief.”

Ron Taylor, CAO noted, “Mark, we wish you well in your retirement, and thank you for your many years of dedicated service to Kawartha Lakes. Not only did you serve as the City’s Fire Chief, but also successfully led the City’s Emergency Operations Centre through various flood, health and catastrophic accidents, incidents and exercises over the past several years. I certainly enjoyed working with you, and look forward to continued work with all Fire staff to maintain the exemplary Kawartha Lakes Fire Service that all City residents, businesses and visitors rely on.”

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