Glenwood native Miles Boulter will be in Ontario next month to receive the Canadian Volunteer Fire Services Association's 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award. He started out with the O'Leary Volunteer Fire Department in 1972 and joined the P.E.I. Fire Fighters' Association's fire school in 1989. He has been chief instructor at the school since 1991.
CHARLOTTETOWN -- A rather routine incident in 1972 helped confirm Miles Boulter’s role as a volunteer fire fighter.
It occurred shortly after he joined the O’Leary Volunteer Fire Department. He was driving through the community and noticed a “fairly substantial” flue fire at the Hillard Johnson home.
“I went in to see – I knocked on the door. Of course, they didn’t know about it – and then I called (deputy chief) Raeford MacLean and he came over and we put it out, contained it with no damage to anything, and I went home.” He might not have thought any more of the incident if it were not for what happened next.
“I got a card from Mr. and Mrs. Johnson thanking me for what I’d done for them and I suddenly realized that I could make a difference, and the rest is history.”
He’s been making a difference ever since.
By the time his job with Maritime Electric transferred him to Charlottetown in 1986 he had served three years as chief of the O’Leary department. He has been an instructor at the Prince Edward Island Fire School since 1989, starting out as deputy chief. He has been chief instructor since 1991.
“To quote Wilfred Dennis (chief in O’Leary when he joined), ‘all the fires in those days were big,’” Boulter related in describing how fire services have changed. “We didn’t have the equipment, and, the better we got, the harder it became to be a fire fighter, because in the old days when we had no equipment the things burned to the ground. You stayed there until it wasn’t going anywhere else and you went home. Now, you put it out, and that is a lot more work.”
Of course, though, the success is what helps make it so rewarding, he acknowledge.
“When you join a fire hall, it’s not like joining a Lions Club or a Legion (or some other organization),” he said. “It’s a different demand on a family, and it has to be a whole family commitment or it isn’t going to work.” He said he has had that commitment and support throughout his nearly 40 years of fire services.
His dedication to improvement in fire services has not gone unnoticed. In 2010 the Canadian Fire Chiefs Association awarded him Volunteer Chief of the Year and, just recently the Canadian Volunteer Fire Service Association selected him as their 2013 recipient of a Lifetime Achievement Award. He and his wife Donna will be going to Ontario to receive the award on September 7.
This is unbelievably humbling, that I have done enough, between what I did in O’Leary and what I carried on with the Firefighters' Association that people deemed it recognizable Award recipient, Miles Boulter
Boulter said he is truly amazed and humbled that the two national awards have come to Prince Edward Island and to him. “I’m not a stand-up-there-and-beat-your-chest guy,” he insisted.
“This is total acceptance by your peers across Canada,” he said. “This is unbelievably humbling, that I have done enough, between what I did in O’Leary and what I carried on with the Firefighters' Association that people deemed it recognizable.”
This latest award comes with over $34,000 worth of fire fighting equipment for the fire school and a brand new set of bunker gear from head to toe in his size.
He received the Diamond Jubilee medal last year and when the new fire school opened it was named Boulter Station in honour of his service.
At the fire school, Boulter has a regular reminder of his days with the O’Leary Fire Department. He was chief in 1983 when the department purchased a new truck. “When we bought that first factory-approved truck, that was such a leap forward, and the fire truck that put that truck out of the fire hall in 2008, it was as big a leap forward for the community as that one that was bought in ’83. That’s how much equipment has improved.”
That ’83 is now at the fire school, traded with O’Leary for training dollars.
Approaching 65 years of age and retired from Maritime Electric for seven years, Boulter still has no plans to turn in his fire fighter’s helmet. The response he gave to a reporter on that question a few years ago still stands, he stressed.
“One of three things will take place for me to leave: one, it’s no longer fun. The second one is I am no longer physically able to do it and the third and the most important one, is the first time I tell a student or instructor that ‘we’re doing it this way because we’ve always done it this way.’ At that point I’m no longer moving the association ahead and I will fire myself.”