After 36 years as a volunteer firefighter in Dallas, Andrew Duggan has said goodbye — or at least see you later — to Kamloops Firehall No. 6.
He retired on Nov. 22.
“It was a long stretch,” Duggan said. “It was a lot of fun, but it was getting to the point where it was time to turn it over to the younger ones.”
For Duggan, getting involved with the fire department more than three decades ago was in his blood — his father helped open the Dallas/Barnhartvale firehall before the area was even part of the city.
“I kind of grew up around the volunteer department out here,” he said.
“And I kind of just grew up with it around the house, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the functions that went on with the department.”
Functions like being at the fire hall once a week for practice night or responding to calls whenever needed, regardless of what time they came in.
That is something that Duggan said he won’t miss now that he’s retired.
“Two days before I retired, Monday night, Tuesday morning, two o’clock, the radio goes off for a medical call,” Duggan recounted.
“I find that if I have to get up at two o’clock for that, there is no going back to sleep. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a 10-minute call or a two-hour call, you go home, it’s 5:30 before I’m falling asleep again.”
But there’s a lot that Duggan will miss — moments when he was able to help others or minimize a family’s loss, the camaraderie among firefighters and the way tragedy can sometimes pull the community together.
He shared such a story about a recent grassfire.
“There was one and I can’t remember the year, but a lot of the hillside burned along behind Dallas and up over into Barnhartvale,” Duggan said.
“And guys would go to work and then they’d come home and they’d go back on the fire line in the evenings and be out there till midnight, two o’clock. And then they’d grab a couple hours’ sleep and go back to work.
“It was a really long stretch, it was very tiring, but it was phenomenal the way the community came together.”
Duggan said people arrived with trays full of sandwiches and juice to help fuel fireighters who had been battling the flames for 12 to 14 hours and working regular jobs the rest of the day.
“Looking back, that was kind of a really neat time when the community really came together,” he said.
Another pleasant memory for Duggan is of the years he spent as a volunteer firefighter working with his family — three generations at the Dallas/Barnhartvale fire hall.
“I was very fortunate to work with my father for eight years before he retired,” Duggan said.
“And then my son just shut it down this year, I had eight or nine years with him. He was serving under me at this hall.”
Duggan is looking forward to spending more time with his grandchildren and a planned retirement from his day job with the city.
Although he won’t officially be in the auxiliary any more, he does plan to stay in touch with the crew with whom he spent so much time with over the years.
“I’m not sure I want to lose touch totally with it, but it is time to step aside and let the 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds take over,” Duggan said.
“I’ve enjoyed it all, the training, the calls, some you’d rather not remember. But there were way more times that you were able to help people and make their misfortunes a little easier to bear.”