At about 7:45 p.m. on Thursday night, a firefighter’s portable radio beeped loudly in the Tidemark Theatre as a signal came in from the dispatch centre.
Perhaps five or six firefighters who were sitting near an exit at the back of the hall immediately left to respond to an emergency.
There was a murmur in the crowd, and the firefighters’ annual awards ceremony continued without missing a beat.
It’s all part of the job, said Ian Baikie, who retired as fire chief last year.
“The job is all about doing the work when the work is in front of you,” he said during a reception in the lobby following the ceremony.
“Whether you’re an auxiliary member or career member, when the pager goes off, you go.”
Baikie and four other retirees – Roger Barriault, Mike Modras, Paula Ripley and Ed Stawski – were honoured at the ceremony, receiving a standing ovation from crowd. Baikie was also recognized for his service as local assistant to the fire commissioner.
Dignitaries included MP Rachel Blaney, Mayor Andy Adams, Coun. Michele Babchuk and B.C. Fire Commissioner Gordon Anderson, along with senior city management officials. Speakers praised the firefighters for their work.
“Whether it’s motor vehicle accidents, to fires or hazardous spill containment, you guys do it all,” said Adams in a speech.
“Often you’re helping people through some of the most traumatic, upsetting moments of their life,” said Blaney, adding that the role played by families in supporting firefighters is also crucial.
Thomas Doherty, who took over as fire chief in July, stressed the importance of contributions from auxiliary and career firefighters past and present, along with staff including dispatchers and the fire inspector.
Support from city management, mayor and council, and the provincial and federal governments is also crucial, Doherty said.
“We are all part of the same team.”
The event recognized new auxiliary recruit graduates – James Danylchuk, Steve Eikeland, Jody Hagel and Daniel Martin – who received a distinctive black helmet to replace the yellow one used in training.
The event also ushered in a new batch of members, including Lee Archibald, Stephanie Bremer, Thierry Gendron, Andy Michaluk, Matthew Moore and Nicholas Olson.
Also recognized were members of the new recruit class, including Clayton Beier, Cody Gent, Addison George, Joshua McLennan, Lee Simmons and Hunter Yon.
Fire Service Awards, consisting of a bar worn on the sleeve of formal jackets and a pin for day-to-day uniforms, went to firefighters in five-year increments of service, whether served in Campbell River or at another fire department.
For five years of service, awards went to Jeremy Fyfe, James Hope, Anthony Reynolds and Cameron Trace; for 10 years of service to Ben Charlton; for 15 years of service to Jeff Monks; for 20 years of service to Andy Stewart and Jamie Willis; for 25 years of service to Scott Kratzmann and Mike Modras; and for 30 years of service to John Baker, Roger Barriault, Rick Bates, Mark McKenzie, John Vaton and Reid Wharton.
The 25-year firefighters also received the B.C. Long Service Medal, while the 20-year and 30-year veterans received the federal Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal.
Modras and Barriault also received honorary badges marking more than 10 years of service with the No. 1 Fire Hall Association, which organizes social and charity events.