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90-year-old former firefighter dedicated his life to the safety of others in Summerside

Desiree Anstey/ Journal Pioneer
Windsor Corney, now aged 90, said of his 40 years of service with the Summerside Fire Department, that he is amazed at where he started – from his days with noisy steam engines –  to the push of a button on modern equipment.
Windsor Corney, now aged 90, said of his 40 years of service with the Summerside Fire Department, that he is amazed at where he started – from his days with noisy steam engines – to the push of a button on modern equipment. - Desiree Anstey

Looking back on his 40 years of service with the Summerside Fire Department, Windsor Corney said he is amazed at where he started – noisy steam engines and throwaway canister masks.

“When I joined the fire department during the 1950s, we had a GMC fibre gallon truck. Learning the amount of pressure to be applied, hose friction laws, setting for lines and gages, was part of the deal. I knew how the old fire truck worked by just the motor’s sound,” said the 90-year-old.

Becoming a firefighter was “in his genes,” with 230 years of service in the family.

“Father was a firefighter for 25 years. I served 40. My uncle Earl, 25. My grandfather was deputy chief with 54 years, and his two sons joined,” he said, and listed family that fought some of the toughest blazes, including the Great Fire in 1906 that levelled over 155 buildings in Summerside.

“It was not a joy to fight fires, but rather a fulfillment to help save someone or feel compassion when breaking sad news. Fire is a very heinous thing that destroys everything in its path,” said Corney.

“When there was a fire, the department would blast a loud horn to gather the volunteer firefighters. My wife, June, would go quietly to the bathroom and throw-up, but I never knew about her reaction until many years later. She must have died a thousand times when I went out, but I always came back.”

Windsor Corney as a Summerside fire inspector. He said although he served for 40 years on the Summerside Fire Department, he was involved 68 years from 1935 when his father responded to the fire at the Summerside High School to the year of 2003. - Desiree Anstey
Windsor Corney as a Summerside fire inspector. He said although he served for 40 years on the Summerside Fire Department, he was involved 68 years from 1935 when his father responded to the fire at the Summerside High School to the year of 2003. - Desiree Anstey

He jumped on every call while pushing fears aside.

“Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) never bothered me because, in the back of mind, it was just a job. I don’t worry, no matter what happens. I’m a rarity,” he said while acknowledging he didn’t make a fuss after suffering from a heart attack in October 2019.

But there is one disaster in the forefront of his mind.

“I remember a burning hotel, carrying burned bodies out, and searching for a little girl. I saw her red socks sticking out of the bathroom door. She had asphyxiated from the heavy smoke. I carried her down the stairs. Someone asked, ‘Is she hurt?’ and I replied, ‘Not anymore.’ At home, I had a child the same age.”

A healthy and positive look on life helped Corney transition from training officer, town fire inspector, to city fire inspector.

Historian George Dalton said Corney received the Award of Honour in 2019 for his decades of historical research and record-keeping of the fire department.

“Windsor and I served on the Historical Society. There’s nothing that he couldn’t help me on. Windsor dug up the past on the fire service in Summerside and brought this important history back to life in a book,” said Dalton.

Despite having a library of stories and experiences from the job, Corney said he “has no regrets,” and, he added, “I would do it all again, firefighting is in my blood.”

Windsor Corney, now aged 90, said of his 40 years of service with the Summerside Fire Department, that he is amazed at where he started – from his days with noisy steam engines –  to the push of a button on modern equipment. - Desiree Anstey
Windsor Corney, now aged 90, said of his 40 years of service with the Summerside Fire Department, that he is amazed at where he started – from his days with noisy steam engines – to the push of a button on modern equipment. - Desiree Anstey

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