Richard Miranda took over as West Nipissing fire chief in 2013 and never planned on staying in the position for nearly a decade. The camaraderie he has with his fellow firefighters, and overall love of the job kept him coming back well beyond when he initially thought he’d retire. But now, the time has finally come for the long-serving firefighter to move on.
“When I first took the fire chief job, they asked me how long I’d be sticking around and I told them five years then, and I’m still here,” says Maranda. “It’s really hard to let go. I still enjoy it a lot, but I think right now is the time to actually leave the reins to a younger person. I’ve seen quite a bit of changes since I first started and I’m getting up in age also, so that helped me make my decision.”
Maranda’s last day as chief will be May 31, ending a 34-year run as a firefighter in his hometown of West Nipissing.
“We have very big shoes to fill,” said Jay Barbeau, CAO for the Municipality of West Nipissing in a release. “Richard has been a valuable member of the senior management team. His contribution to the organization will be missed. I wish him all the best in his retirement!”
Maranda first joined the Sturgeon Falls Fire Department in 1988 as a volunteer, shortly after moving back to the area to get into the restaurant business with his parents. He says the decision to get involved was his alone but acknowledged that his family did have history in the department.
“My grandfather was the fire chief for Sturgeon Falls, years back mind you – my mother was still a teenager then – but I don’t know, I guess it’s in your blood. It’s just an opportunity for somebody to be able to help the community.”
Maranda remembers fighting fires in a trench coat and long boots back then, just one example of how much the equipment has changed over his time.
“The pumps, they have pressure relief valves, it’s all electronic today,” he says. “Before it used to be manual. We’ve got automatic nozzles now… extrication tools, the ones we started with you needed two firefighters hanging onto it because of the weight, they were cumbersome; now they’re lighter and stronger. There’s a bigger variety of tools today than there were then.”
Maranda got on as a spare firefighter with the department in 1991 and then was named training officer in 1999. He also worked as the Fire Prevention Officer, and Public Fire and Safety Educator before getting hired as chief in 2013. Changing roles wasn’t a big deal, as Maranda says every day on the job offers a new experience.
“There’s not one day that’s the same as the other. When the phone rings, you just don’t know what’s happening or where we’re going… Just the fact that you’re helping somebody when they’re in the worst day of their lives is something that you never forget.”