It’s 4:07 p.m. at the Penticton Fire Department, and there’s a feeling of excitement in the air.
For Deputy Chief Chris Forster, this week has been like a party that never ends, only better. He’s less than an hour away from retiring, after more than 27 years of service.
“It feels awesome, it’s been a great career, I can’t believe how quick it’s come. I’m ready, it’s time to retire and just go and enjoy life,” he said, standing in the fire hall on Thursday.
In 1988, Forster was working as a corporate accountant across the street from Penticton Fire Station 201.This tugged at his lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter.
On one of his coffee breaks, Forster crossed the street to talk to the deputy fire chief about the possibility of becoming a volunteer firefighter. Days later on Wednesday night, Forster showed up to his fire firefighter practice, and has been in the service ever since.
After a year of training in Penticton, he moved to Vancouver knowing there were more opportunities to find a position as a firefighter. After about five and a half years with the City of Vancouver Fire Department, Forster migrated to Calgary where he spent about six years with their department, before moving back to Penticton.
After working for a while as a volunteer, Forster was eventually accepted as a full-time firefighter in 2009 and in 2017 was promoted to deputy fire chief.
His entire life, Forster has been involved in the community, and being a part of the fire department has allowed him to do that on a daily basis. He especially cherishes the times he’s been able to help raise funds for the B.C. Burn Fund, or B.C. Burn Camp, to assist burn victims.
“And that’s actually one of the more important parts of the job to me, was a lot of the volunteer and community work. To me, yes, there’s a lot of exciting stuff that happens in the emergency services, fires, motor vehicle accidents. But you know what? Some of the stuff I really enjoyed was the hall tours, (and) teaching the kids fire safety. That really is equally important, and satisfying,” said Forster.
“It’s (been) a well-rounded career, but… it’s time to go,” he added.
In his many years as a firefighter, Forster says he never stopped learning. He furthered that anyone entering the profession needs to be willing to constantly evolve and learn.
As he leaves, Forster says Penticton is in good hands.
“Penticton actually really does have to consider itself lucky to have the new fire chief start in 2016, Larry Watkinson. He has just been an incredible change and asset to this department. He has brought so much experience with him, and he’s a great leader.
“The citizens of Penticton are so much better protected than they were in 2016. You can ask any one of the firefighters, they will tell you that. They are very impressed with their new leader, they’re wanting to do more, he challenges them to do more. It’s just been a great situation since he came to this department,” Forster said.
Forster looks forward to spending his retirement in Penticton.
“You couldn’t ask for more. It’s definitely a beautiful place to be. [We’re] really glad we made that decision to come back here.”
After 27 years of Service, today Deputy Chief Chris Forster retires from @pentictonfire. He defines leadership with everything he does, and has been an incredible asset for the #PFD. We are so happy Chris is retiring Healthy & Happy as he moves into his next chapter in life. pic.twitter.com/n0SJbsXfMZ
— Penticton Fire Dept. (@pentictonfire) July 23, 2020