News of the passing of Mike Iles was received with great sadness at Haliburton Forest. Our team – both long serving staff as well as relatively new staff – held Mike in the highest regard.
To the staff of Haliburton Forest, Mike was a lessee, hunter, friend, client, and supportive stakeholder. It was always a pleasure to bump into him at Base Camp or in the bush. In that context, we will miss seeing him around, chatting with him, and enjoying his company.
Mike was also something much more significant to Haliburton Forest. Over the years, our entire team came to view Mike as a kind of guardian angel, who would show up with his colleagues from the Fire Department to save the day if disaster struck.
Most of the encounters that we each personally had with Mike were in the context of him being the Fire Chief. These encounters were typically emergency situations within or near Haliburton Forest; for example, when someone was lost, someone was hurt, or something was on fire.
A few times, these emergencies were in daylight during the week along a paved road, but usually they were late at night, on a weekend, deep in the bush – in other words, in the worst possible place and at the worst possible time. Yet, Mike would be there, with his colleagues from the Fire Department, to save the day, with a high level of skill and a remarkably good attitude.
It takes a special kind of person to keep calm and get things done during an emergency. Without exception, Mike was the definition of calm, and he always did his job efficiently. His colleagues were right on par with him in terms of calmness and effectiveness during every emergency.
But Mike himself always did far better than just staying calm and doing his job. During every emergency that we can remember attending with Mike, from the moment he showed up, he also conveyed an aura of courage, dignity, authority, and respect.
Sometimes during these situations, if it was appropriate, (and he always seemed to know if it would be appropriate), he would bust out his sense of humour, lifting the mood and providing comfort to everybody around him, including the person who needed emergency assistance.
In closing, for many years, the 100-plus staff at Haliburton Forest have taken pleasure from seeing Mike around the property and taken comfort in knowing that Mike would be there to save the day if there was an emergency.
That is why we will remember Mike as a lessee, hunter, friend, supportive stakeholder, and guardian angel.
On behalf of all of our colleagues at Haliburton Forest, we offer our deepest condolences to his friends and family, and we are profoundly grateful that during his service as fire chief, Mike developed and led an entire cohort of successor guardian angels, being his competent, dedicated peers at the Fire Department, who will continue serving our community for many years to come.
Malcolm Cockwell, Managing Director and Tegan Legge, General Manager
Haliburton Forest and Wild Life Reserve