A long-time firefighter in Norfolk County is hanging up his hat this week.
John Verboom, the community safety officer, has been a firefighter for 44 years.
Verboom started as a volunteer firefighter at Station 6 in Courtland, where he stayed for 36 years. He transferred to the station in Simcoe full-time on a contract in 2008. When that contract came to an end, he worked part-time for several months and, in December 2009, came back on as a full-time staff member.
“I applied the day I turned 18 years old. I was on within three weeks,” Verboom said about the start of his career.
By 1980, he was the instructor at Station 6.
“As my time in fire went on, to me it was very obvious that I really had a desire to do fire prevention,” said Verboom.
Verboom attended the Ontario Fire College to get his certificate in fire prevention, at which time the community safety officer position in Simcoe came open.
He said the part of his job he will most miss is emergency management for Norfolk County. He said he enjoyed helping to prepare for special events, such as 2013’s Gentlemen of the Road concert featuring Mumford and Sons in Simcoe and Friday the 13th motorcycle rallies in Port Dover.
He also remembers fighting a few large fires, including one in downtown Tillsonburg.
“We managed to stop it about halfway down the block. That was a big night.”
Verboom offers some advice for anyone considering firefighting as a career.
“I think you have to be diligent,” he said.
“Don’t be afraid to go get your college degree in fire prevention or fire suppression. It would really enhance your opportunities to get on full time somewhere,” he said.
“Don’t expect to walk in off the street. You need to be thinking about it way ahead of time.”
In his retirement, Verboom plans to continue with a home business.
“I’m a carpenter and woodworker by trade. I’m going home to play with the wood.”