Inuvik resident and long-time volunteer firefighter David Bernhardt is the 2020 recipient of the NWT Fire Service Merit Award.
Given annually by the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs, the award “recognizes members of the NWT fire service for their work in protecting our families and homes from the threat of fire,” stated a Monday news release.
Bernhardt, 58, has been volunteering for Inuvik’s fire service for more than 40 years. He was nominated by the town’s fire department.
Since the 1980s he has held a number of titles – assistant fire chief, deputy chief, captain, and lieutenant.
He’s been a part of the service for so long, he has outlasted seven different fire chiefs.
“I used to be called the hydrant boy,” Bernhardt told Cabin Radio, reminiscing about his years on the service. “I used to catch the fire hydrants for the fire trucks.”
For Bernhardt, volunteering for the fire service is a way of giving back to the community where he grew up and has lived since the 1960s.
The Inuvik Fire Department congratulated Bernhardt on the award, referring to him as “Inuvik’s most seasoned veteran firefighter.”
“David remains an active member of the fire department, sharing his history and knowledge as a mentor to novice firefighters,” wrote current fire chief Cynthia Hammond.
“On behalf of the Inuvik Fire Department and the entire community, we celebrate David’s 40-year commitment and thank him for his service.”
Now, Bernhardt works to train and support new firefighters who join the service – a job Hammond said he carries out using “a calm, steady presence, with a watchful eye.”
A small ceremony to present Bernhardt with a plaque is set to take place in the next week.
After four decades, Bernhardt said he would like to continue in the fire service for another couple of years if he can.
His advice to those who want to join the service?
“Don’t give up hope – always think positive when you’re here.”