Revelstoke’s new fire chief Roger Echlin says rising through the ranks was never part of his plan.
While Echlin says he was fascinated with his future career from a young age, he never expected he’d end up where he has.
“As a kid I wanted to be a firefighter, sure, what kid wouldn’t? I mean, I used to watch all the firefighting shows, and that’s partially what drew me to it,” says Echlin. “When I got on as a volunteer, I never thought I’d become the fire chief, but here we are.”
After serving with the Revelstoke Fire Rescue Services for the past 25 years, Echlin took over the role of fire chief officially on June 1, 2018 after the departure of previous chief Rob Girard in late March.
Though he was born and raised in Burnaby, Echlin’s family holds a history in Revelstoke, with the past four generations residing in the town.
Echlin began his service with the department as a volunteer in 1993 and was able to consistently jump on calls due to his proximity to the station.
“When I was a volunteer, I was fortunate enough to work right next door,” Echlin explains. “I was on just about every call.”
After ten years and three attempts, Echlin became a career firefighter in 2003, starting in a combination of flex work, which had him covering vacations and holidays, and working as an inspector.
Originally, Echlin says his interest in firefighting came from a simple desire to give back to the community.
“It was just a way of giving back. I had a really supportive employer at the time and it just morphed into this. The more I did it, the more I enjoyed it,” says Echlin.
The Revelstoke fire rescue services works within the municipality on public complaints, fire and medical calls, motor vehicle accidents and other emergencies.
Fire suppression services are also provided to the Columbia Shuswap Regional District Area B through the fire department until September 1, with negotiations currently ongoing to continue services beyond the deadline.
Though Echlin says the fire department is not directly responsible for wildfire suppression, the isolated nature of Revelstoke makes additional expertise necessary in case fires spread into their jurisdiction.
“We have the potential here, with where we are,” says Echlin. “We’ve developed our skills, we’ve been trained to deal with it, but touch wood, we haven’t had any majors here.”
Last year’s historic fire season in B.C. was among the worst Echlin says he’s experienced in his 25 years of service, though he’s hopeful the extreme conditions won’t continue through to this year.
“Last year was I think the worst I’ve seen it for hazard rating,” says Echlin. “I think we were in extreme for the longest period I can recall—pretty much the whole summer. And I haven’t seen that before. Hopefully it won’t be as bad this year.”
As this fire season ramps up and temperatures rise in the region, Echlin says Revelstokians should stay aware of what is and isn’t allowed through the department’s social media channels, which consistently broadcasts bans in place and other information.
Other practices, such as keeping fire prone environments watered and wet, can help reduce the risks of fires within the municipality.
Echlin says Revelstokians should also remember to follow basic fire safety procedures, such as not burning during fire bans and safely disposing of cigarette butts.
For more information on fire safety and education, visit firesmartcanada.ca.