Former Fire Chief “speechless” after surprise ceremony (12 photos, video)

His axe and helmet were mounted on this plaque which was presented to Bowen, Feb. 23, 2022 (Dan Gray/

The Ontario Fire Marshall as well as firefighters from many of the rural fire stations gathered in Goulais for a rare celebration.

For this event, Goulais Fire and Rescue’s former Fire Chief Jeff Bowen, was brought to the hall one last time to listen to his “last call” among other tributes.

“Goulais portable 31, this is the last call for retired Fire Chief Jeff Bowan, who has served both the Searchmont and Goulais Fire Departments for the last 25 years,” blared the pager system inside the hall on Old Highway 17. “You’re dedication and commitment have helped make Goulais Fire and Rescue an exceptional volunteer fire department, we hope you enjoy working only one full-time job going forward, thank you for your service.”

The evening had speeches from Ontario Fire Marshall representatives, new Chief Kris Rooley and Bowen himself.

“I worked under him as the deputy for five years and I’ve learned a whole lot. I’ve watched the place grow, I watched new apparatus come in the building and new equipment,” said Rooley. “He’s left us in a very good spot. He’s He set us up to succeed. He’s taught us an awful lot and he’s made it so that we are who we are today.”

His axe and helmet were mounted on this plaque which was presented to Bowen, Feb. 23, 2022 (Dan Gray/

Bowen was presented with his axe which is “too heavy for any of us to use,” stated one of the firefighters presenting it to him. It came with his helmet as part of a handmade wooden plaque.

For his part, Bowen was both surprised and speechless, which is rare for him.

“I love the place, and I love the idea of it. I got into this when I was 17 years old and up in Searchmont… a few years later, I met Sandra and moved down here to Goulais and this was a happening fire department,” recalled Bowen of his start in Goulais. “I met some of my best friends through this place. And my wife and my friends, Marty (another firefighter) and I got to be really close and spend a lot of time together and I would dare say we rebuilt the place at one point.”

The fire department didn’t stop at acknowledging only Jeff’s contributions to the department. His wife, who served for years with the department, was also given a parting gift basket and flowers.

“Whether it’s a pager going off in the middle of the night, whether it’s a pager going off at dinner, and so along with Jeff’s dedication, all of our spouses deserve a huge thank you,” said Rooley. “The place is about more than just the firefighters. Without the spouses, we are not who we are. Jeff and I are both extremely lucky to have the support of both Sandra and Ryley… they are the other half of the beating heart that makes Goulais Fire what it is.”

The night ended with a fire truck escort taking Jeff away from the station and home for one last time. He left the evening with one warning that everyone in the building laughed and agreed with.

“Thanks very much for all your support and dedication and don’t let the place fall apart or I’m going to haunt you…,” and with that the former chief left the building after serving the community for over 25 years.

Everyone in attendance would say he leaves big shoes to fill.

SaultOnline/ONNTV would like to thank Goulais Fire and Rescue for inviting us to cover the departure of Bowen. We appreciate the co-operation from the multiple emergency services in and around Sault Ste. Marie.



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