Powell pays visit to Whistler firefighters 

He may have his hands full trying to put out fires in the Middle East but U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell still had time to visit local firefighters during his two-day stay in Whistler last week for the G8 foreign ministers meeting.

Powell and an entourage of advisors and security people walked from the Fairmont Chateau Whistler over to the main Whistler firehall following the final press briefing at the conference on June 13. He was invited by Whistler firefighter Brian Buchholz.

"Three of us were in New York City to attend memorials for firefighters last November," Buchholz said. "We were treated fantastically by the firefighters and the people of New York, so we just thought we’d like to reciprocate that hospitality and invited the Secretary of State."

A brief letter of invitation was forwarded to Powell through the Canadian Foreign Affairs Ministry on the first day of the conference, June 12. RCMP and members of Powell’s security staff came by Fire Hall No. 1 the next morning to check out the location and confirm the invitation. About 1 p.m. Powell arrived at the fire hall and met the two firefighters on duty and a few others who were off duty but at the hall.

"He really made himself at home," Buchholz said. "We went upstairs to the lounge, he helped himself to an ice tea, picked out a chair and sat down and we started talking.

"He said he recognized that Canadians were very supportive of Americans following Sept. 11, and firefighters were very supportive, and he thanked us for that.

Buchholz said he had about a 99 per cent expectation Powell wouldn’t be able to come by the fire hall but he did, and the 15-minute visit left a big impression.

"We have a collage of images from our trip to New York and he signed that," Buchholz said.

"He asked us what we do at our station, whether we’re involved in forest fire fighting. He said he’d never been to Vancouver or Whistler before but he was amazed by the beauty of the area."

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