By Jean Strong
Sun Peaks Independent News
October 1, 2016 – On a sunny autumn afternoon in Heffley Creek, Bruce Crawford sits inside a bright living room while one of his granddaughters plays around the corner.
Tucked on the mantle is a large glass award for his services, and a black scrapbook on the coffee table has a red fire department crest on the front. Tonight Crawford will attend his last weekly training session as the auxiliary captain of the Heffley Creek fire station.
After 35 years with the department in various roles, Crawford’s 60th birthday has brought him to retirement.
“They told me it’s time to get out of their hair,” Crawford said with a laugh. “I’ll be around though. I can’t respond but I can still help.”
Having lived in Heffley Creek his whole life, Crawford joined the fire department after watching his home burn down in 1972.
“I just kept taking more courses and exams as they came and before I knew it I had all these accreditations,” he said, adding that he fell into the role of captain as time passed and other members came and went.
Until his work retirement five years ago, Crawford also worked for the province which had him traveling often but he made it to as many of the Wednesday training sessions as he could.
“It is tough,” said Crawford. “The biggest issue is commitment. It takes a lot to be a volunteer firefighter.”
Over the years he has been involved in training, acting as an evaluator for the Justice Institute of B.C., volunteering for charity work and attending many calls for service throughout the region.
He traveled to Nicaragua several times with Kamloops Fire Rescue to volunteer.
Their team brought firefighting and emergency response equipment, did manual labour, built classrooms and a soup kitchen and trained local firefighters.
“It was so hot, but they were so enthusiastic,” Crawford remembered. “They were very grateful and just wanted knowledge and help.”
Another highlight of his career as captain was responding to the fires that surrounded Sun Peaks in 2003.
“First we had great success down here with the Strawberry Hill fire,” said Crawford. “Then everything was headed to Sun Peaks and we arrived as a wedding party was getting into their cars to evacuate all dressed up.”
Fire trucks being staged where the Kookaburra Lodge now stands also stood out in his memory.
“As we rolled up there was a lot of trucks all lined up there, it was quite a sight.”
When asked what he will do after Mark Engdhal takes over the role as captain, his booming laugh fills the room. Crawford volunteers around the community and has been with some organizations as long as 38 years. His schedule includes first aid with St. John Ambulance, the board of the Kamloops International Bantam hockey tournament, working at the local ice rink, being the area water bailiff, and a member on the Heffley Creek Improvement District Board.
“People need help, you never know,” Crawford said. “Once you get into helping people it’s like an addiction.”
He will also be kept busy by his three children and four grandchildren who all live in the area.
As our interview ends, Crawford’s daughter comes to take his granddaughter to hockey practise and his grandson arrives to spend time with his grandparents. Crawford watches him play with a ride-on firetruck on the front lawn, joking about starting new firefighting recruits young.
Crawford may be retiring but he shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.
“It has been enjoyable,” said Crawford. “Saved some structures, had some big laughs, had some big cries… I will miss my guys.”