By Cathy Holmes
Special to the Coast Guard
Firefighters and community members came to their feet with applause time and time again during an hour-long tribute to Lockeport Fire Chief Leo Williams on Feb. 2 at the Lockeport Fire Hall.
Several speakers said their first association with Williams was during the fire that destroyed or damaged seven Lockeport businesses on the bitter-cold night of Feb. 3, 1975. That night, Fire Chief Williams called for help from departments in Queens and Lunenburg counties, as well as many Shelburne County fire departments. Added to the challenge of the size of the fire was the freezing temperature, which caused hoses and pumps to freeze up.
“He was only chief, at that point, for a few months and had only been in the department for two or three years,” said David Kendrick, fire services coordinator for western Shelburne County. “He made the right call, without question.”
Soon after that event, the South Shore Mutual Aid organization came into being. And Lockeport Chief Williams was involved from the beginning. Since then, he has been involved with the formation and operation of firefighting organizations with a county, inter-county and provincial scope.
Well wishers, many of them uniformed, from Shelburne County Mutual Aid, the Nova Scotia Fire Service, Nova Scotia Firefighters Training School, Shelburne County East Emergency Measures Organization, Shelburne County West Emergency Measures Organization, Lockeport First Responders, Lockeport Lions Club, Western Nova Scotia Firefighters Association, Maritime Fire Chiefs Association and from 18 fire departments from Shelburne, Queens and Lunenburg counties signed a guest book as they entered the fire hall.
Lockeport Mayor Darian Huskilson and Municipality of Shelburne Warden Roger Taylor thanked and commended Williams for his years of service.
During the event, Lockeport Mayor Darian Huskilson highlighted Williams’ great sense of humour with a couple of stories. As a teenager, Huskilson and his brother, Julian, both new members of the Lockeport Fire Department, were working at painting houses and asked the fire chief if they could borrow a ladder from one of the fire trucks. Williams allowed it, but said it was very important to get the ladder back to the truck if it was needed. Huskilson said he and his brother had not been painting for long when, sure enough, the fire alarm sounded. “Julian grabbed one end of the ladder and I grabbed the other and we took off to the middle of town, where we heard the trucks heading out,” Huskilson told the audience. They saw a big grin on Williams face as the truck sped by them. Later on, Huskilson said, Williams was still laughing when he told Huskilson that all he could think of when he saw the two boys running down town carrying the ladder was ‘Where’s the bucket?’
Williams served in the Lockeport Fire Department for 42 years, 39 of them, as chief. He was a great believer in training and attended countless novice and advanced training sessions, believing that the best way to instill in his firefighters the importance of training was by example. He served on the board of directors of the Nova Scotia Firefighters Training School.