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Firefighting is a family affair

Three generations of local firefighters from the Clemmer family have been protecting the community for more than 50 years.

The family tradition started with Oscar Clemmer joining  the Floradale fire station in June 1971. He went on to serve the community for 45 years, serving as the captain until 2016. He was followed by his son, Tinus Clemmer, who started when he was just 22. Tinus was promoted to a captain position in 2016 for the Floradale station following his father’s retirement. He also volunteers with the Elmira station.  Oscar’s nephew, Micah Clemmer, started volunteering for the Wellesley Fire Department in 2016. Micah was hired on the Waterloo Fire Department in 2018, where he still works today.

Last August, Oscar’s granddaughter and Tinus’ daughter, Taylor Clemmer,  decided to pick up a fire hose as well and join the family tradition. At 21 years of age, Taylor is the youngest and currently the only female firefighter at the Elmira fire station.

“Growing up, I always watched my dad and my grandpa, so it’s always kind of been like a dream or a goal of mine to get on and do that – I love doing what I do for the community, and the team that I work with at Elmira is amazing,” said Taylor Clemmer.

“I was always intrigued by what they did, my grandpa and my dad I mean. Watching him work a full 50-hour week and being on the road with his normal job and then coming home and trying to spend time with kids, but run out the door every so often for calls – running out in the middle of Christmas dinner or whatever – it’s exciting and we’d always wait up for him when he gets back because he’s going in the middle of the night. Or mom would drive us out in the car and we go watch grandpa and dad – we’re always just super fascinated by it. It’s always been like a really big thing for us,” she explained.

“The fact that we’ve gone three generations down the line now, and the fact that we’ve all done it and can share that together as a family, I think it’s pretty incredible,” she added of her family’s firefighting experience.

“I live down the road from the Floradale fire station, and I think it is easy to forget when I hear those sirens and see the trucks roaring past that inside are our neighbours, friends, and family,” said Alina Kehl, a family friend.

“Some of the calls are kind of difficult to go to; you work in a small community – going on to a call sometimes when you know somebody or you know they’re connected to somebody that you may know, working in a small town like that sometimes it can be difficult because it is a very small, enclosed community. It’s hard, but you find your way of dealing with it and getting through with it, and the guys on the department are amazing. You go to difficult calls but at the end of the day you know you’re working with a good team,” said Clemmer.

“The cities are so big, but here in a small community, you feel that much more grateful to protect the small community that you have, and the people that are here. It’s sometimes scary – could I be going to my neighbor’s house? Or what if I could be related to this person? I think when you work in the community and you’ve grown up with people in the community and then you’re also serving that community as well in the fire department, it can be very fulfilling.”

Clemmer noted that last month the Elmira fire station received some 25 calls, a busy month for them.

After many years of watching her father and grandfather running out the door when their pagers went off, she is now running out the door alongside her father. The father-daughter duo can be seen around the community fighting fires together, or going out to other emergency calls often late into the night. 

“My dad and I, we always try to make every call – we’re very eager. Sometimes there’s two or three calls in the middle of the night, and we’re running out the door together. During the day, he’s gone with work, but after work or in the middle of the night we usually do run a lot of calls together – it’s a very cool thing to be able to do that with my dad for sure,” said Clemmer.

“I’ve watched my grandpa and my dad stick with it for so long. … I’ve obviously dreamed of doing it for so long, but I wasn’t so sure that I was capable of doing it – over the last year and a half it’s really challenged me. I have learned a lot about myself and I’ve learned that I do actually really enjoy doing what I do.

“My grandpa, he’s extremely proud – he’s got his pager he keeps with him all the time, he likes listening to all the calls. The other day we went to a fire in Floradale and my grandpa lives in Floradale so I saw him wandering around. He showed up to the scene and was taking pictures of me – he’s just so proud,” said Clemmer, equally proud of her Grandpa’s firefighter roots.

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