The City of Revelstoke will have a new Fire Chief in the spring of 2018. Fire Chief Rob Girard after a decade as Revelstoke’s Fire Chief is retiring after 34 years of service in the Provincial and Municipal governments. Assistant Chief Roger Echlin will become Fire Chief early this spring.
Chief Girard met with the Revelstoke Current to reflect on a great career.
RC: You look way too young to retire, why are you going now?
Too young…why thank you…I think!! All kidding aside, I will be 53 ½ when I officially retire at the end of May. I have been serving the public in the Provincial and Municipal governments since I was 19 years old, way back in 1984…when I had bigger hair and more of it. I think a person knows when it’s time to go and make way for a new person with new ideas. It refreshes the organization and gives it that new set of eyes. That’s a good thing…don’t you think?
RC: So this new guy…Roger, what’s the story with him?
Well first off Roger isn’t new and in fact has been on the Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services for over 25 years. He’s a fantastic choice for the position. Roger is our Fire Inspector/Assistant Chief and is very knowledgeable, personable and will be a great leader for our department. I have been thinking of retirement for the last 2 years and this last year we really ramped up the transition process with Roger. We have been working hard concentrating on the transfer of information and mentorship that will prepare Roger to take this department from “good” to “great”.
RC: So the retiring guy…Chief Rob, what’s your story, for instance why did you become a Firefighter and then a Fire Chief?
Interesting question…I became a firefighter and eventually the Fire Chief for reasons you wouldn’t think of. When I was 9 in 1973, the house right beside our home had a major structure fire in the middle of the night. I remember standing on the sidewalk in my pajamas watching 30 foot flames shoot out of the roof…and then panic set in. The house stood for a long time after the fire and it freaked me out every time I had to walk to and from school. Little did I know at the time that it had a major impact on me both negatively as a child and positively as an adult. Years went by and I became an Auxiliary Firefighter, then a POC Firefighter, Lieutenant and then finally, the Fire Chief in Revelstoke. What became very important to me and I realized, why I chose this profession, was that when I went to fires and emergencies, I made sure each and every time that people directly impacted, especially kids got the necessary help and care they needed to deal with the mental stress of the situation. I always made sure of it. Little did I realize that a past negative memory created a positive for others I served.
RC: So you’ve been the Fire Chief in Revelstoke for a decade…what have you been up to?
That’s another good question…The Fire Chief business is like a running a 400 metre race. Chief Mike ran the race, did a great job, made changes and passed the baton to Chief Wade who also did a great job, made changes and passed the baton onto me. It’s really about making good…great! The Fire Service is always evolving and by that I mean there are changes to equipment, training, personnel, laws, regulations and political directions. As Chiefs, we are required to keep our service moving forward in order to provide the best possible, fiscally mindful fire service that keeps all of our responders safe. It’s a team effort and lots of positive changes happened in the last decade for sure, but I have my team and the support of this and past Council’s to thank. I have passed the Baton to Chief Echlin and he will continue down the same path Chief’s Mike, Wade and Rob did. It’s a great thing!
RC: What’s are some of your most memorable or best calls in the past decade?
Boy…hard questions…I would preface it by saying all calls are memorable for one reason or another good or bad. But 3 calls stand out for sure.
The Revelstoke Energy Plant Fire was a “best call” because we had a great save to a significant piece of infrastructure in Revelstoke.
The Downie Timber Log sort fire on Halloween was another “best call” because Downie Timber is very important to the Fire Department as they are a major employer in our City. Between their staff and our team, we saved over a million dollars in finished product. It was a very proud moment for us. Oh ya and Firefighter Randy Driediger fighting the fire dressed as Gene Simmons from KISS was pretty memorable.
A “memorable” call was an alarms ringing at a local hotel. Basically a disturbed individual pulled every pull station in the hotel at 3:30 in the morning. He then didn’t like the sound of the bells and began ripping the fire bells off the walls. It was utter chaos for all of us!!! Firefighter Tim Luini was trying to silence the fire bells at the fire panel but the bells would begin to ring every 10 seconds because we had so many pull stations activated. Out of nowhere this angry individual comes through the doorway and says “turn off the bells” as he raised his fists looking to fight…and then says “if the fire bells ring again, I am gonna @#$%&*# punch you”. I looked at Tim…oh god..don’t let them ring. Of course, the bells started ringing again. I braced for the punch and a tussle. All of a sudden the guy turned around and ran out the door. I wasn’t sure why…but…when turned around, behind me was Firefighter Dan Hutchison…and he definitely had my back. Thanks for saving the Chief…Hutchie Boy!
However, the very “best calls” are the calls where all of our firefighters return back to the station safe and sound. You can well imagine we attend everything on varied scales from truck fires and Emu’s running around on fire on the TCH, to major structure fires, complicated medical calls and tragic highway rescue incidents. If you ever get a chance to visit the station, written on each and every bay door where apparatus sit are the words…”Everybody Goes Home”. These words are the first thing the firefighters see as the bay doors go up as they respond and the last thing they see as the bay doors go down upon their return. It’s a good reminder to all of us as Responders as to what is truly important.
RC: What is your worst call in the past decade?
As firefighters, we all have our worst calls and they have everlasting affects…all I can tell you is…its personal to each of us.
RC: So, about your Firefighters, what can you tell us about them?
Boy…I am one lucky Fire Chief to have been able to work with the best, most dedicated, courageous group of men and women on Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services, both past and present. First off, my hat is off to our professional firefighters who are the leaders, trainers, change agents and mentors to all our volunteer firefighters. They are truly the backbone of this organization and I am truly thankful to work alongside each of them.
Secondly, are the Volunteer Firefighters, who never cease to amaze me with in their dedication, willingness to learn, hard work, comradery and team spirit within our department. I am truly blessed to have worked with all our Firefighters and without a doubt Revelstokians…you are very fortunate to have this great group of men and woman who put their lives on the line, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Thank you Firefighters, you are appreciated…you are the best!
RC: So Chief Girard, now what? What’s next?
That’s an easy question! I’m moving to the Kootenay Lake area as I am truly a Kootenay boy at. A retired friend of mine told me recently that that the best part of being retired is that you never have to answer hard questions again…that’s my plan.
RC: Anything further you want to share with our readers?
Thanks Revelstoke for your support to Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services over the last 10 years under my leadership. I want you to know that you have a group of men and women on this department that dedicate their lives to serve your community and serve it well indeed.
Our firefighters over the last decade were supported by past Mayors and Councils and the firefighters truly appreciated it. It would be impossible to not acknowledge and thank our current Mayor Mark McKee, his Council and of course our CAO Allan Chabot for truly understanding and expressing their concerns of risks to our firefighters, expressing and understanding what we do and why we do it and for fully supporting our members. Their support makes serving as a firefighter worth it. Thank you Mayor, thank you Council and thank you Allan.
Finally, Revelstoke, it was a pleasure to serve you and I want to thank Revelstoke Firefighters both past and present, for your service…be safe!