Ask a volunteer what motivates them and the answer invariably includes service to community. Ask a volunteer firefighter and the response is no different, just slightly longer – service to community, flashing red lights and shiny stuff.
Case in point, Captain Glenn Dickinson. Born in England, Dickinson moved to Lantzville when he was 10. While completing High School he worked at the gas station across from the former Fire Hall (now the City Hall) and would watch in awe whenever firefighters spilled out of their vehicles to jump on an engine. Inspired, he joined up at just 16, becoming a junior firefighter with Lantzville Fire Rescue (LFR) and earning a front-row ticket to the action he craved.
When work eventually took him from home, Dickinson satisfied his passion for excitement by learning to fly. As a commercial airline pilot for twelve years he flew for a variety of companies, among them North Vancouver Air, Western Express Airlines and Canadian Western Airlines. Instead of riding his favourite truck, mighty Engine 6, his new steeds were 19-passenger turboprops like the BA JetStream 31, the Fairchild Metro 3 or the Piper Navajo. And instead of Lavender Road or Sywash Ridge, his new destinations were charters to Sandspit or Masset and stunning locales like Chilko Lake Lodge.
“Canada’s just a beautiful country,” Dickinson says. “And when you get to see it from an airplane you’re a lucky person indeed. I loved flying into fishing lodges, into small strips, and getting my passengers safely to their destination.”
Unfortunately the vicissitudes of the airline business and an industry slowdown in 2001 brought Dickinson’s flying career to an end. He could have relocated somewhere far away to scrape out a career, but chose instead to return to Lantzville where he quickly rejoined the department. In two years he reached Lieutenant, five years later he made Captain and now is the unit’s training officer. In his day job Dickinson is happily ensconced at Kal Tire in Nanaimo as a commercial sales rep. He says he misses the flying, but returning to his first love provides him no end of adrenalin.
“When you jump in the truck as an officer and you’re heading to a scene it reminds me of pushing up the power lever in an airplane,” he says. “You’re in charge of a crew again, you’ve all got the same focus, you’re all about to go do something pretty exciting.”
Special note on summer fire safety from Chief Tom Whipps:
By the time this article is published it’s likely a complete ban on outdoor fires will be in effect – including cooking fires, campfires, beachfires, etc. Even if a ban is not in place expect it will be soon and exercise common sense. We are tinder dry here in the summer. It won’t take much to start a fire that could quickly spread out of hand. When beachfires are allowed they are only permitted below the high tide line and only clean wood is to be burnt. Pallets or other fuel sources contain nails or other hazards that could injure beachgoers. Stay safe out there please.