An extraordinary day

Yesterday was an extraordinary day.    And it had nothing to do with cycling.   Instead, it had everything to do with this:

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If you’ll indulge me, I will explain why.

In 2002 I became a member of Golden Volunteer Fire Department.   I recently retired this past December with the rank of Captain.   There were multiple reasons for my retiring, one of them being to allow me to have more time to pursue my Gran Fondo goal.    However, that’s not what this post is about.

Yesterday, the new truck that you see above, was delivered to the Golden Fire Department where it will now take on the role of responding to highway motor vehicle incidents (MVI’s).   What makes this extraordinary is not the truck itself, although it is a remarkable piece of machinery.        It’s more about how the truck came to be.

In 2011, our department underwent a major change in its leadership.   A new chief, Ken McClure, was hired to come in and help rebuild a department that had hit hard times.    Within three years, he completely transformed a small town department, that was barely hanging on, to one that exhibited pride and professionalism in all aspects of its duties.    Ken also managed to change the process of how road rescue expenses were reimbursed to fire departments in this province.

If you are at all familiar with Golden, you will know that we inhabit one of the deadliest stretches of the Trans Canada highway in the country.   You will probably be familiar with the Rogers Pass – an engineering marvel when it first opened nearly 60 years ago – now a twisty, outdated, deadly highway that has claimed dozens of lives over the past decade alone.    Golden Fire Rescue undertook the responsibility of responding to MVI’s about four years ago.    Initially, GFR had to use its existing apparatus (trucks, for those not familiar with fire lingo) to respond to calls.    We were being reimbursed at the rate of $125 per hour by the province of BC for dealing with situations outside the town boundary.   However, when you have ten members showing up for the call being paid at $16/hour wages, you’re already in the hole before you even leave the hall.  Never mind the cost of wear and tear on your equipment.

Ken, our chief, could see that this was not going to be sustainable and that eventually, the town might pull the plug on the highway rescue program.    So, he undertook it to begin negotiating with the province to change that.    After several years of hard work, he managed to fund a pilot program where GFR would continue to respond to highway calls while collecting data on expenses incurred for those calls.   Eventually Ken was able to demonstrate to the province the sizeable expenses that were incurred, especially by small departments, when they were forced to leave their town boundaries to  respond to those in need.   As a result, he convinced the Province of BC to raise the reimbursement rates from $125 per hour per call, to over $300 per hour.    This not only applied to our department, but is now the standard rate for the entire province.

As if that wasn’t enough, Ken also managed to raise $100 000 from the province to help supply our department with much needed new equipment to do the job.   And, to top it all off, he secured $500 000 from gaming grants to purchase a new state of the art highway rescue truck – the one pictured above.   This was the first time that this type of funding had been awarded to a department in BC.     What it meant, was that the province had agreed to cover the costs of highway rescue (in the Golden area, at least) and not download the expenses to the community.   As you can imagine, other departments from around the province had been watching us closely and have been grateful for our work.

I wish this story had a happy ending.

Unfortunately, four months ago, as the truck was being built, Chief Ken McClure passed away suddenly of a heart attack.     As you can imagine, the effect was devastating on all who knew him.    Since then, the Golden Fire Department has been coping as best as they can while they await the hiring of a new chief, which will hopefully be happening within the next few weeks.

It was decided that the best way to honour Chief McClure was to dedicate the truck to him.  It was given the name “RESCUE 120“.   In the fire service, every firefighter has a numerical call sign – the Chief’s was 120.   So, from now on, every time the new truck rolls out the of the hall, the number 120 will be spoken over the air waves, reminding us of the caring, talented, and dedicated man our chief was.   He will always be remembered for his kindness, courage and dedication to the people of the Town of Golden.   He was a truly, remarkable human being.

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Chief Ken McClure – 1959-2014

Yesterday was an extraordinary day.

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About gssfire

High school teacher, husband, father of three children currently residing in Golden B.C.
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