A callout from the scanner that briefly interrupted the Agassiz Fire Department’s Annual Banquet and Awards Night on Saturday night also underlined an important reason to celebrate the local heroes.
The callout came after many of the speakers had already thanked the spouses and families of local firefighters. They were thanked for their constant support and concern, and for putting up with cold dinners, missed dates, and changed plans. Everyone in the room could relate. Everyone has watched a friend or loved one run out the door, and prayed for their safe return.
So as the dispatcher called out over with the static — MVA, Agassiz, possible injuries, please respond — the usual dinner clatter and festive chaos dulled down to almost complete quiet. There was nodding, and listening, and understanding.
And then, without hesitation, four of the fire fighters chosen to be on call that night rose to their feet and headed for the door, leaving all the festivities, friends and family behind.
Every speech to that point had included mention of such interruptions, these call outs that can happen at any moment.
“Well,” mayor John Van Laerhoven said, pausing to address the callout while presenting the next award. “That really strikes home when a callout happens. That really shows, it can happen in the middle of dinner or the middle of a daily chore. Thank you to all of you.”
Many awards were handed out during the banquet, which was catered by Lori’s Catering.
Ross McInroy earned an award for most volunteer hours.
Casey Klop was awarded the James T. Morrow award, for his efforts over the past year and for getting more young people involved in the fire department.
Mike Shaw received the Carl Tyfting Memorial, and Capt. Jason Zopf earned his 10 year service award.
Two firefighters earned Exemplary Fire Service Medals from the federal government.
First was Chris Wilson, who has been a firefighter for 20 years. He spent the first two years in Surrey, where his father was also a volunteer firefighter, before moving to Agassiz.
“The first thing I wanted to do when I turned 18 was to become a firefighter,” he said. And while life can get busy with family and regular work commitments, he urged all those in the room to keep going to practices and to stay as involved as time allows.
“You’re always going to have ebbs and flows in your life,” he said. “Stick it out.”
Deputy Chief Gerald Basten also received an Exemplary Fire Service Medal, for his 30 years of service. He noted the many times his family has had dinner in the oven, and he’s had to dash out to serve the community. And he wouldn’t have it any other way.
He recalled the Seabird fire in 1992, in which a two story house was fully engulfed in flames and a person was trapped in the basement.
“To this day I can remember the look on the paramedic’s face when we exited the house with a steaming patient,” he said. “It’s still the proudest day of my career.”
In addition to the firefighter awards, three spouses were recognized by the BC Office of the Fire Commissioner with Dogwood Pins. The pins signify 15 years or more of spousal support for a firefighter who has served the community for 25 years or more. The women receiving the award were Lorna Prior, Carol Van Tol and Trina Basten.
Finally, Chief Wayne Dyer noted that “family should come first, but we put our hearts and souls into this job.”