Ed. Note: It’s literally impossible to overstate the importance of this community’s volunteer fire department. Not only do they attend fires, as their name would suggest . . . they are also first responders at any emergency call, from a gas leak to a heart attack to a car accident. They provide building inspections, public safety education for everyone from school children to senior citizens, and even fundraise for causes like the Muscular Dystrophy and the food bank Christmas hampers. They are spectacularly well-trained. To top it all off, they’ve saved the city literally millions upon millions of dollars over the years when compared to other similar-sized cities across the province.
The Castlegar Fire Department celebrated landmarks for 2017 that were sometimes inspiring, sometimes poignant and, in one case, downright hilarious at their annual awards banquet Saturday night.
Beginning with inspiration, Firefighter Laura Monsen was promoted to Lieutenant starting Jan. 1, when she will become the first female officer in the history of the Castlegar Fire Department.
“We’ve had female firefighters before, but never a female officer,” said Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio. “This is evidence that women have a very important role to play in the department, either in service, or as a career.”
Also promoted to Lieutenant starting Jan. 1 is Jesse Plotnikoff, who served as Captain for five years with the Tarry’s Fire Department.
“Jesse has 10 years of experience,” Lattanzio said. “He’s also a fulltime firefighter at Teck in Trail.”
Laura’s father, Deputy Fire Chief Duane Monsen was also honoured at the event for a remarkable 30 years of exemplary service to Canada in fire services. Monsen is also the Emergency Program Coordinator for the City of Castlegar.
Awards for 25 years of service were earned by Cpt. Stuart Ady, Cpt. Brad Makortoff, FF Anthony Mackie and FF Sidney Floyd.
Fire Chief Sam Lattanzio got the nod for 20 years of service. Five other service awards were earned for longterm service of either five and 10 years.
Comic relief for the evening was provided by the Hoser Award (an award given to the member who made the funniest/most embarrassing gaffe). While the reasons for awarding this are often not ideal for publication, an example would be the year a firefighter won it for, while tending a firepit at a community event, accidentally igniting his own turn-out gear (much to the hilarity of his colleagues).
This year, the dubious distinction went to former Fire Chief (now department chaplain) Gerry ‘Careful’ Rempel – who has now won it a precedent-setting five times! In fact, he set the record with his fourth such award, as the next-closest common recipient has only received three.
“I’m very honoured, it’s a very prestigious award,” Rempel said, laughing. “I think humour is very important. There’s enough serious stuff going on around here, you’ve got to have fun.”