By Justin Seward
After 35 years as a member of the Bow Island Fire Department, Blaine O’Donnell is now the fire chief of the town’s fire station.
It was made official on June 23 when town council made the motion to appoint O’Donnell as BIFD’s new fire chief.
“I think first off, I would like to thank Kelly Byam (previous fire chief) for 30 years of dedicated service personally and from the department,” said O’Donnell.
“I find it a great honor to be chosen as the new fire chief by council and the fire department.”
He started as a fire fighter, before holding titles as firefighter EMR, Lieutenant, captain, assistant deputy chief, deputy chief and now the fire chief.
“We have more responsibility,” he said on moving up to the top fire fighter’s chair.
“You’re looking after all of your men. You just have to learn to delegate stuff to more people and work closer with them.”
He is looking forward to keeping the fire hall, “Even keel and no rocky roads, and (to) keep the people of Bow Island and surrounding area safe.”
He plans to work closely with council to make sure Occupational Health and Safety is involved more.
The fire department does a variety of training 48 weeks of the year, but he noted being a firefighter is not for everybody.
“It’s a very dedicated bunch of people,” he said.
“It’s not for everybody. We don’t condemn anybody that can’t. If you can’t have a breathing mask on your face, we have a job for everybody and we’re not going to shun you because you can’t do that.”
The difference O’Donnell has seen to firefighting in the community has been the contribution the Town of Bow Island and the locals have made to the fire department, to enable them to buy more equipment.
“When I started I had old rubber boots, bunker coat, a helmet and pair of gloves,” he said.
“Now we got $3,000 bunker gear, $650 boots and $400 helmets. We’ve been very fortunate to be able to purchase everything that we have.”
The tactic of firefighting has evolved since O’Donnell started.
“When I started, we called it ‘Hard from the Yard.’ You stood at the window and shot water in. Then we learned how to do an interior attack. I don’t want to say it’s a ‘Hard from the Yard,’ again, but a lot (of it) is hit the fire and then go in. Before it was get in and put the fire out, and now it’s put the fire out and then go in.”
He said the department is “Fantastic right now. We’ve got a lot of young guys that are enthusiastic as hell.”