Alta Lake's first firefighters 

50 years on

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Page 7 of 8

From 1962 through to 2013 several hundred volunteers have worn the bunker pants and heavy fire boots of the various namesakes of the Alta Lake and Whistler Volunteer Fire Departments. Committed locals like: Lindsey Wilson, Dennis Beuregard, Gary Raymond, Seppo Makinen, Pierre Trudeau, Dave Cathers, Sheila Kirkwood (B.C.'s first professional female firefighter), Paul Martin, Don Noyes, Rick Valleau and so many others, have served the community from under their firefighting helmets.

Through the decades, local emergencies as varied and surprising as your imagination can fathom have been responded to. Forest fires, logging truck roll-overs, two forced plane landings on Blackcomb Way, gondola and chair lift accidents, and river and ice rescues have called out the volunteers. And there have been the really big fires as well: "The Keg Fire," "the Burgess/McCarthy fire(s)," "Seppo's Staff Housing" and "Seppo's house," "the Mushroom House" and several fires in Emerald referred to collectively as "The Emerald Fire." Each event witnessed acts of selfless bravery and hard effort by volunteers and career firefighters pulled out of their beds or away from their workplaces to lend a hand and save a life.

Volunteers that included loggers, homesteaders, hippies, ski bums, patrollers, lawyers, construction workers, mechanics and others have all played their role in delivering an important part of the fire and life safety response for the valley.

It would take a few years after the initial volunteer efforts began before the paperwork made its way to Victoria and the Alta Lake VFD was fully constituted. Still, with or without a piece of parchment the firefighting pioneers of that bygone era displayed true spirit, commitment and good fellowship in establishing the first firefighting corps at Alta Lake some five decades ago.

It is a storied, unbroken and impressive path from those half dozen, original volunteers to the fire service of 2012. While the firefighting profession has seen great changes in tactics and operations, equipment, training and funding sources the thread of that early dedication and commitment runs straight and true from 1962 to today.

Today in Whistler there is a cadre of professional career firefighters in place and on the job protecting the community 24/7. Significantly, for the community's broader safety, these career firefighters are supported by a core of well-trained and dedicated "paid-on-call" (volunteer) firefighters.

As with their Alta Lake VFD predecessors of a half century ago, today's volunteers continue to offer their time and energy responding to fire, rescue and medical emergencies in all weather, day and night.

Today's "vollies" continue the tradition of selfless community sacrifice and effort, as did their early firefighting forefathers.

The firefighters of 2013 can directly and proudly trace their pedigree back to those visionary volunteers of 1962 and to that tiny fire equipment shelter at that little railway siding on the west side of Alta Lake.

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