Firefighter climbs the ranks

With more than a dozen years of service under his belt, only fitting that Mike Fiset move up to chief position

With more than a dozen years of service under his belt, it was only fitting that Mike Fiset move up the ranks.

The father of three, who joined the Lavington Fire Hall more than 12 years ago, is enjoying his new role as chief.

Living and working in Lavington, it’s rare that Fiset leaves the small community, therefore his attendance record at the hall is superb.

“I pretty much make every call,” said Fiset, who works mainly graveyard shifts at the Tolko mill.

Fiset, who held the deputy chief position for the last three years, moved up the ranks following the departure of former chief Bruce Holmes.

“Between work and family he’s just not around as much as he’d like to be so everyone kind of shuffled up,” said Fiset, as Marty Wright took over the deputy chief position and Brian Donovan moved up to assistant chief.

Being a small community, the demands of work and home life are a common cause for loss of volunteers at the hall. In fact the hall has lost four members due to job changes in recent years.

“If you get a volunteer to stay on five years that’s pretty average right now,” said Fiset, who is an exception.

“We’re a little low on membership right now,” said Fiset as the numbers should be around 25, but there only 19 volunteers filling the boots, three of which work out of town and another who is a snowbird.

Although the job can be demanding, the camaraderie, fulfillment and opportunity to give back to the community is what keeps Fiset in the ranks.

Battling the Kelowna Mountain Park Fire is the biggest and most memorable event in Fiset’s history.

“As a newer firefighter it was a pretty good way to learn. It was massive, it was hot – 30 degree days and you’re fighting fires.”

As a smaller community, Lavington is able to lend a hand to its neighbouring fire departments and emergency personnel.

“From ambulance assist calls to mutual aid with Lumby and Coldstream,” said Fiset.

Lavington was also on hand during the Vernon landfill fire, where one of its newest assets came in handy.

The hall replaced a 1987 water tender last July with a roomier, more sophisticated vehicle featuring back-up cameras.

“I used it up at the Vernon landfill fire, it works spectacular,” said Fiset.

Lavington is also trained and equipped for Jaws of Life emergencies.

“We started doing road rescue two years ago now. Before Vernon used to cover our area.”

Members recently completed a hazmat awareness course and are gearing up for their annual performance fitness tests.

But outside of all the typical firefighter duties, members also have a soft spot for the community.

They are involved in the Lavington May Day, parading royalty around town; play a major role in the Remembrance Day ceremony; members light up the skies for Halloween fireworks and you can annually catch the department and one of its antique trucks in local parades, such as the Vernon Winter Carnival parade.

“It was -17 when I left here,” said Fiset, who drove the convertible top 1938 antique fire truck at top speeds of 60 km/h into town for the affair. It proved worthwhile as the department and May Day Royalty won best community entry under 6,000.

“It’s a really nice community to be in.”