Leaving the Flames Behind – A Journey Through Firefighting in Canada
Hanging up the uniform and retiring from the fire service can be an emotional decision for many. Some are excited for a new path, while others are hesitant. The transition can bring up thoughts and feelings of identity crisis and uncertainty. Shelley Langille, an executive career coach and founder of SeeShell Consulting, works with uniformed members and first responders in Canada. She has seen many fire service members experience a roller coaster of emotions and negative assumptions about retirement. Without a sense of purpose, retirees may develop unhealthy habits. However, retiring can also bring opportunities for personal growth and pursuing new passions, as experienced by Fire Chief (Ret.) Cynthia Ross Tustin and Deputy Fire Chief (Ret.) Gilbert MacIntyre. It’s important to navigate retirement with a clear sense of purpose and create a fulfilling life post-uniform.
Full Article: Leaving the Flames Behind – A Journey Through Firefighting in Canada
**Retiring from the Fire Service: A Mix of Emotions**
Many members of the fire service experience a mix of emotions when it comes time to retire. Some eagerly embrace their new path, while others are more hesitant to leave behind the familiar and the responsibilities that come with it. Retirement can bring up questions about identity, purpose, and what comes next. It can even lead to negative assumptions and stigma. Shelley Langille, an executive career coach who works with uniformed members and first responders, has seen firsthand the roller coaster of emotions that retiring firefighters go through.
**The Hesitation to Retire**
Langille explains that some people are fully prepared for retirement, with plans already in place for their post-fire service life. They have dreams of owning a boat or a camper and are excited about the next chapter. But there are also those who are hesitant, feeling like “deer in the headlights” when it comes to leaving the fire service. The transition can be especially hard for those who have worn the uniform for many years. It can lead to confusion, conflicting emotions, and an identity crisis. They may wonder, “Who am I outside of the uniform?”
**The Lack of Purpose and Identity**
One of the challenges that retiring firefighters face is a loss of purpose and identity. The fire service provides a clear sense of purpose, always being there to help people in need. Without that sense of purpose, retired firefighters may find themselves with too much time on their hands and not much to do. This can lead to developing bad habits such as excessive drinking, smoking, or living a sedentary lifestyle. Without a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it’s easy to fall into a rut.
**Retirement as Proactive Thinking**
For Fire Chief (Ret.) Cynthia Ross Tustin, retiring from the fire service was a proactive decision. She wanted to avoid the fallout from the cumulative stress she had experienced throughout her career. Dealing with emergencies daily and navigating the demands of local government had taken its toll. Ross Tustin felt that she had accomplished everything she wanted to in her firefighting career and was ready for new goals and challenges. She didn’t want to spend the rest of her life solving other people’s emergencies.
**The Search for Purpose**
When Ross Tustin made the decision to retire, she faced many questions about her sense of purpose. She wondered what would give her the same “adrenaline high” that being a fire chief did. Feeling a sense of purpose is essential for all human beings, and the fire service provides a clear and direct purpose. Ross Tustin didn’t want her purpose in retirement to be limited to mundane tasks like cleaning the house or mowing the lawn. She wanted something more fulfilling.
**Leaving a Legacy**
As a trailblazer for women in the fire service, Ross Tustin also struggled with the decision to leave her position. She wondered if she had done enough to help other women behind her. There was a feeling of guilt, as if she was giving up on the sisterhood by retiring. The pressure to be a role model weighed heavily on her mind.
**Pursuing New Passions**
Despite her initial uncertainty, Ross Tustin decided to pursue writing and painting full-time. She now writes a blog about retirement and enjoys expressing her creativity through painting. She sees herself as self-tenured rather than retired, embracing her more artsy side after years of tactical and practical work. Retirement has allowed her to finally focus on what truly brings her joy.
**The Unexpected Retirement**
Deputy Fire Chief (Ret.) Gilbert MacIntyre’s path to retirement was unplanned. While looking into pension plan information for someone else, he accidentally discovered his own numbers. Seeing those numbers made him realize that it was time to go. He had seen the same blank stare on the faces of his colleagues after they had checked their pension numbers. Retirement suddenly became a tangible option for him.
**Embracing an Active Lifestyle**
MacIntyre didn’t mind going to work, but after 34 years in the fire service, retirement started to appeal to him. He discussed it with his wife, and they decided it was something he could pursue. MacIntyre began training and preparing his replacement while simultaneously going through the retirement process. As someone who enjoys an active lifestyle, retirement meant more time with family and the opportunity to focus on hobbies like playing the guitar, practicing karate and Reiki, teaching yoga, and going to the gym.
**Moving On to the Next Thing**
When Fire Chief (Ret.) Shawn McKerry left his role at the Fort Saskatchewan Fire Department, he felt a sense of accomplishment. He had achieved more than he had ever expected as a fire chief and was ready to pass the torch to someone else. Although not yet at the standard retirement age, McKerry decided it was time to move on to meaningful work that was related to firefighting. He transitioned into the role of an interim chief administrative officer.
Retiring from the fire service is a decision that comes with a mix of emotions. Some eagerly embrace the change, while others hesitate to leave behind their familiar role and responsibilities. The loss of purpose and identity can be challenging for retirees, and it’s important to find fulfilling activities that provide a sense of meaning. Retirement offers the opportunity to pursue new passions and explore different aspects of life. It’s a chance to transition into the next chapter and embrace new challenges.
Summary: Leaving the Flames Behind – A Journey Through Firefighting in Canada
Retiring from the fire service can be an emotional journey, filled with mixed emotions and uncertainty about what comes next. Many individuals experience an identity crisis, questioning who they will be without the uniform. This lack of purpose and sense of identity can lead to unhealthy habits and a sedentary lifestyle. However, retiring from the fire service can also be an opportunity for personal growth and pursuing new interests. Former fire chiefs Cynthia Ross Tustin, Gilbert MacIntyre, and Shawn McKerry each approached retirement differently, finding fulfillment in writing, painting, pursuing hobbies, and taking on new roles in their communities. Retirement is not the end, but a chance for reinvention and self-discovery.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Questions and Answers
Q: What is the retirement age for firefighters in Canada?
A: The retirement age for firefighters in Canada can vary depending on the province or territory they are employed in. However, in most cases, the retirement age ranges from 55 to 60 years old.
Q: Are there any specific requirements for firefighters to retire?
A: Yes, firefighters in Canada usually need to meet certain criteria to be eligible for retirement. These requirements may include a minimum number of years of service, such as 25 or 30 years, and age qualifications.
Q: Can firefighters retire early in Canada?
A: Yes, it is possible for firefighters in Canada to retire early under certain circumstances. However, early retirement options may vary depending on the specific fire department and collective bargaining agreements that are in place.
Q: What happens to a firefighter’s pension upon retirement?
A: Upon retirement, firefighters in Canada are typically entitled to receive a pension. The amount of the pension is usually based on factors such as the firefighter’s years of service and average salary during the final years of employment.
Q: Can retired firefighters continue to work in a different capacity?
A: Yes, retired firefighters in Canada have the option to work in a different capacity after retirement. Many choose to pursue second careers or take on part-time employment to stay active and continue contributing to society.
Q: Are there any health benefits provided for retired firefighters?
A: Yes, retired firefighters in Canada often receive health benefits as part of their retirement package. These benefits may include coverage for medical expenses, prescription medications, and other healthcare needs.
Q: How can firefighters financially prepare for retirement?
A: Firefighters can financially prepare for retirement by starting to save early in their careers. It is advisable to contribute to retirement savings plans, such as a Registered Retirement Savings Plan (RRSP) or a pension plan, to ensure a stable financial future.
Q: Can firefighters access any additional retirement benefits in Canada?
A: In addition to pension benefits, firefighters in Canada may have access to other retirement benefits, such as post-employment health benefits, survivor benefits for their dependents, and retirement savings plans offered by their fire departments.
Q: What are some challenges firefighters may face upon retirement?
A: Firefighters may face several challenges upon retirement, including adapting to a new routine, loss of camaraderie, and transitioning from a high-stress work environment to a more relaxed lifestyle. It is important for retirees to seek support and engage in activities that provide fulfillment during this transition.
Please note that the retirement process and benefits for firefighters may vary in different provinces and territories. It is recommended to consult with your local fire department or pension authorities for specific information related to retiring from fire-fighting in Canada.