Volunteer firefighter in Alberta celebrates 70 years on the job, sets national record

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Alberta volunteer firefighter celebrates 70 years on the job, sets national record
WATCH ABOVE: Firefighting can be a gruelling job, which makes this milestone all the more incredible. Robert Mitchell just set a national record after serving the people of Lamont, Alta., for more than seven decades. Nicole Stillger has the story – Apr 7, 2022

A volunteer firefighter in Alberta is celebrating a remarkable achievement.

In September 1951, Robert Mitchell joined the Lamont Fire Department.

“It was just out of high school and I didn’t know what I was going to do — go to university, or join the Air Force,” Mitchell recalled.

He ended up sticking it out in Lamont and now his tenure as a firefighter has landed him in the record books.

Mitchell completed just under 26,000 days of service, a volunteer career spanning about 70 years.

It’s earned him the honour of longest serving firefighter in Canadian history – surpassing Fort Saskatchewan’s Walter Thomas.

“It’s one of the highlights of my life, yes — very, very much so,” Mitchell said.

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“Quite a phenomenon to get to 70 years. I don’t think people realize how long a time that is.”

One of Mitchell’s standout memories from over the years includes the 1995 hospital fire in Lamont.

“We saved one half and we lost one half,” he recalled.

Mitchell is one of the founding members of Fire Hall No. 4, and it’s now named after him.

“He’s dedicated, he’s humble, he’s just so knowledgeable,” said Lamont Fire Department assistant chief John Helton.

READ MORE: Answering the call: Who pays the cost of dwindling volunteer firefighter numbers?

Helton said everyone looks up to Mitchell.

“The young people that we have on our department — we’ve got people here, school kids, juniors — and they think just the world of Bob,” he said.

“If Bob isn’t here when they get here, they wonder where he’s at.”

Even though Mitchell is almost 90 years old, his dedication hasn’t waned.

“He’s still able to come and he makes sure he comes every Tuesday night,” Helton explained.

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“We practise seven to nine. Bob’s here at 20 after six.”

Mitchell was born and raised in Lamont and raised a family of his own in the area.

His fellow firefighters over the years became his second family — a bond he cherishes.

“The people that join the fire department, they’re real comrades. You don’t find people like that,” Mitchell said.

“You join the fire department, you’ve got an automatic 25 friends.”

With more than 70 years under his belt, there are still no plans to call it quits.

“I feel good,” Mitchell laughed.

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