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Deputy fire chief puts out his last fire

Ray Ellis (third from left) receives an award from Mayor Taso Christopher (second from left) for his 30 years of dedication to the Belleville fire department. Joining Ellis for the honour at Monday’s meeting of city council were (from left) Belleville Fire Chief MacDonald, Ellis’s mother, Jean Ellis, his wife, Dianne Ellis, and Dianne Ellis’s mother, Mildred Graves. Photo by Cali Doran, QNet News

By Cali Doran [1] and Dariya Baiguzhiyeva  [2]

BELLEVILLE – Deputy fire chief Ray Ellis has retired after 30 years of fighting fires.

At Monday night’s council meeting, Mayor Taso Christopher applauded Ellis’s dedication to the city, and presented him with an award for his service.

“It is kind of always a little boy’s dream to become a firefighter or a policeman, and I was just lucky to kind of fulfill that,” said Ellis.

He started with the fire department as a telephone operator in 1987. He worked his way up to the role of firefighter, captain and then deputy chief.

“I enjoyed fighting fires very, very much, because it’s always different,” Ellis told QNet News Wednesday. “There’s no fire that’s the same and there’s no situation that’s the same. It’s an adrenaline rush.”

But there are drawbacks to the profession, he said.

“Cancer is one of the biggest dangers that we face,” Ellis said. “It’s a terrible disease and unfortunately we’re prone to getting cancer” because of smoke inhalation and exposure to toxic chemicals.

In what he called Ray’s Ride for Cancer, Ellis rode a bicycle from Belleville to Edmonton in the summer of 2005.

“That was pretty much a highlight of my career – that was a life-changing thing. I did that because of losing a lot of best friends on the job to cancer. So that was my way of trying to help out.”

He urges future firefighters to always reach out to family and friends and to never keep things bottled up.

Asked what the best thing is about being a firefighter, he said it’s “that you are making someone’s terrible day just a little bit better. And that’s what our job is – because whenever we see people it’s usually at their worst. And our job is to try and make their day a little better.”

Now that he’s retired, Ellis said he hopes to get back into activities he enjoys, such as biking, windsurfing and golf. He also hopes to continue to be involved in the community, he said.