After a 28-year career with the Kimberley Fire Department, Fire Chief Al Collinson will be retiring on May 12th, 2017.
Collinson began his fire service career with the Kimberley Fire Department in 1989 as a Paid on Call Firefighter for one year, and then started full-time in 1990 as a Career Duty Fire Fighter. Collinson was promoted to Lieutenant in 1998 and then to Deputy Fire Chief in 1999, also acting as Fire Prevention Officer and Municipal Emergency Coordinator. Collinson was promoted to Fire Chief in July of 2006.
A lot has changed in his time with the Kimberley Fire Department, Collinson says. When he began in 1989, there eight full-time unionized firefighters working at the Kimberley Fire Department, as well as 25 paid on call firefighters.
In 1996, as Kimberley began to transition towards the Sullivan Mine closing in 2001, firefighters who retired were not replaced. By 2000, the last union firefighter had retired and the department was down to two full time members, which was raised to three in 2003. At that time there were 28 paid on call firefighters as well.
In the mid-2000s, a partnership was begun with the College of the Rockies to train firefighters, and in 2008 the program moved to the Kimberley Fire Hall. The latest class just held graduation ceremonies last week.
“It’s been a great partnership with COTR,” Collinson said. “We are the only fire department in B.C. that does that type of training.”
Another area where Kimberley has led the way is in fuels and interface fire management.
“We started prior to the wild fires in 2003,” he said. “Our very first project was above the Morrison Subdivision. That was done with a lot of volunteers but now we max out every year on grants available through the UBCM and the fuels management program is ongoing.”
Collinson is proud of all that work, but what he is proudest of is leaving a department that is highly trained,
“I’m proud we’ve got highly trained, dedicated firefighters. I don’t think every community has the level we’ve got.”