Since 1986, Rob Smith has been doing his part to keep View Royal residents safe as a volunteer firefighter with View Royal Fire Rescue, and as he gets ready to hang up his helmet, the community he served has recognized his dedication to duty.
On Oct. 31, outgoing Mayor David Screech formally recognized Smith with a plaque and celebration at the fire hall as one of his last official acts as Mayor.
“It was exciting, but sad at the same time, because I am going to be retiring from the fire hall,” said Smith. “It means a lot to me, but I think it means more to my family because they have always backed me up. They are pretty excited about me getting it.”
Smith said he never thought of his work as anything special, just something he has always enjoyed doing. But it was still special to get the recognition shortly after he was recognized for 35 years of service by the province earlier this year.
He joined the fire service back in November of ‘86 after working alongside the town’s firefighters as a tow truck driver. After getting to know some of the crew, he was invited to come by the fire hall to learn more about the job, and was quickly convinced to sign up as a volunteer.
After a year of waiting for a spot to open up, he was handed his first helmet and jacket, and as he puts it “I never looked back from there.” That first helmet and jacket even made an appearance as he donned it to pose for photos after receiving his plaque from Screech and Fire Chief Paul Hurst.
While the excitement of responding to a call not knowing how it would turn out stuck with him throughout his career, Smith said the real reason he stayed on as a volunteer for so long was the community service and camaraderie within the department.
“Basically, I just really enjoyed it,” said Smith. “The biggest thrill I got was actually teaching the new guys as they came in. That kept me involved with the guys more, and I always looked forward to my Thursday night drills and volunteering for the community stuff.”
Over the years, Smith has responded to calls of all kinds. One of his first was the largest fire the department had seen at the time, providing new meaning to the phrase “baptism by fire,” and over the years he responded to everything from ship fires in the harbour to a missile crash landing in a building after an accident aboard a warship.
But still, the part of the job he is most proud of is the impact he has had on his fellow firefighters and the residents of View Royal.
“Some of the guys that I trained went on to be professional firefighters … and they have always come back thanking me for teaching them. That was one of the most important things to me. The pride I felt knowing these guys and their success.”
Though he is retiring from being an active firefighter, Smith said he is likely to continue volunteering with the department in some way moving forward. But his first priority will be to spend more time with his nine grandchildren, and more time camping and fishing.
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