Even though he has retired, you can be certain Darryl Cummings won't be a stranger to the Cremona and District Emergency Services in his new role as an honorary member.

The deputy fire chief has retired after 28 years of service, and it will be a challenge to adjust to after serving his community at all hours of the day.

Last week, the fire department saluted a man whom they consider an institution. He was presented with a traditional-style leather fire helmet, and a medal from the province thanking him for his years of service.

Fire chief Kevin Miller says they feel fortunate to have Darryl continue as an honorary member.

"He's been around a long-time and has seen a great deal. He's a mentor and certainly a big reason why we are where we're at today because of his contributions," says the fire chief.

"We're all going to miss him because he's kind of that glue. He really brings people together, he's quite social and fun and realistic and reasonable with people. That combination builds relationships and helps people."

Cummins joined the department in 1993 and has served in all capacities.

The decision to join the fire department was made one evening when he was at home with his wife Jennifer and daughter Sydney.

"We use to have an air raid siren sound to get all the firemen to the hall. We were just sitting at home one day, and the siren went off, and I said, 'I think I'm going to go join the fire department.' It happened just like that."

Within five years, he was deputy chief, then went to serve as fire chief for 10 years before once again serving as deputy.

He says once you become part of the department, it's hard to step back. It's been a hard decision to leave but says it seemed to be the right time.

"It gets in your system. You don't want to quit," he says.

"There are lots of good memories, and, of course, there are bad ones, too. Everything was special, fundraising, going on calls, people saying hi to you on the street. Yeah, it was all good. Lots of friends for life."

The service regularly attends medical emergencies and some have been to aid family and friends. He says those are among the hardest moments.

He also delivered a baby once but doesn't recall many of the details.

"You go, and the next thing you know you have a baby in your hands. I don't really remember much in between, except that it all went well."

When you're a volunteer firefighter, you need the support and understanding of your entire family.  You never know when a call would come in, and he has missed many Christmas dinners over the years.

"I couldn't have done it without my family. When I left the house, Jennifer was awake until I got home because you never know what you're getting into. And Sydney used to come and wake me up when she was three. She would hear it in the middle of the night before me and would come to wake me up." 

He's seen the service evolve in many ways over the years.

"When I first started, there was no 911 out here, so they just phoned the fire number, and it went through a few ladies' houses. They took the call, hit the button on their phone, then hit the siren. Then everybody would come running to the fire hall."

After that, calls came through pagers, then radios, 911, and now they're received via a phone app.

When they needed to replace a fire truck, it became a community affair.

"When the fire department first started, there wasn't very much funding, and they needed another truck," explains Jennifer. "So, Darryl and I got our minds together and started a Firemen's Ball and all this fundraising. That's how they got their first truck."

The service expanded to a second station in Water Valley while Darryl was chief.

"That was a good experience to have another fire hall for our department. The community played a big part in that as well."

Currently, the emergency service has about 36 members.

With recent changes made within the M.D. of Mountainview, they now cover about 1,200 sq. kilometres of territory.