Charlie Croft has followed fire trucks to almost a thousand blazes in Scarborough and East End Toronto.
For 35 years, he has been part of a team of volunteers assisting the fire service any way it can. The group, Support 7, goes out to emergencies and provides food, drinks and respite for the firefighters.
When Charlie was 50, he was looking for a new interest. He was a purchasing agent for Confederation Life and the editor of its monthly magazine CLAN. A firefighter friend introduced him to a group of fire buffs in the Scarborough Fire Department, and he was invited to join Support 7.
The call for help may come at any time, often in the middle of the night. Charlie recalled many times returning home at 7 a.m., thowing on a suit and going to his day job. The schedule became much easier when he retired.
Support 7 is called out to bigger blazes, about 30 times a year. The district chief on the scene decides if the group will be needed. The fire buffs usually attend for three hours or more. When the call comes, they either drive to the fire or to where their truck is. They prepare to serve coffee, Gatorade, bottled water, breakfast bars and snacks, which are paid for by the firefighters’ union.
Charlie recalled one incident when he orded in 20 pizzas, which went down well with those fighting an inferno in a lumber yard in Scarborough.
As well as purchasing supplies, he served as the club’s president for two terms, and as the editor of its newsletter, The Trumpet. In Feburary he took a health break.
On April 20 he received an award from the Toronto Professional Firefighters’ Association “for outstanding and dedicated service on Support 7 to the members of local 3888.”