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Celebrating Local Firefighters

Saturday Event gives residents a chance to meet the team


Lions Bay Fire Rescue (LBFR) is a volunteer group responsible for fire protection in the Village, as well as providing rescue services, first responder medical aid, motor vehicle accidents, technical rescues, wildland firefighting and more. Despite the pandemic, in 2021 LBFR had 114 callouts, and 2022 was even busier. Earlier this summer, LBFR responded to a fire on the bluffs south of Lions Bay, and were able to control and ultimately extinguish a fire that could have had potentially catastrophic consequences for the Village.

Lions Bay Firefighters James Palmer, Kyron Lallas and Darrin Hotte.

The dedication of the team is apparent, with all members who are present in the village on call during the week, then divided into shifts who also work a full weekend each every month, in addition to training every Wednesday night.


This Saturday September 9 is Lions Bay Firefighters Day. Earlier this week, The Watershed had a chance to sit down for a chat with three local firefighters, and their chief, Barret Germscheid.


James Palmer, originally from North Vancouver, is the newest member to LBFR of this trio, just recently graduated from Fire School through the Justice Institute of BC. When he's not volunteering as a firefighter, Palmer works as a Standby Rescue Tech, following a ten-year career of racing BMX.


"The biggest challenge of being a firefighter is the continuous learning. Even when you think you've got something mastered, there's always a new technique to learn," he says. "It's been an incredible experience so far."


A carpenter by trade, Kyron Lallas also joined LBFR this year and has been working as a volunteer member for eight months. Born in Johannesburg, Lallas had a full season of fighting with BC Wildfire Service before he moved to Lions Bay. Stationed at Williams Lake last summer, he worked with an attack crew fighting wildfires on the ground and in the air. "The best part of the job with LBFR is working with the team. In firefighting it's so crucial to work with a team. You can't do the job without each other."


He says that time away from friends and family is one of the biggest challenges of the job, but "it's fun to be a firefighter in Lions Bay. Being able to laugh with the team – that's important."


In Darrin Hotte's experience, his family encouraged his desire to become a volunteer firefighter. Hotte's route into LBFR has been slightly different than Palmer and Lallas. He's a homeowner here in the Village, and works as a mediator when he's not volunteering as a firefighter. Hotte grew up on the North Shore, and met his wife when they both worked at Keats Camp in the summer. He gained an interest in First Aid at Keats, and has worked in positions that involve helping others since then.


Hotte's been volunteering with LBFR for two years, and he says his skills as a mediator have been transferrable to his work as firefighter. "As a mediator, I love bringing order out of chaos, helping to create a pathway forward for people who are struggling with things like divorce or problems with a family business," says Hotte. "Firefighting is remarkably similar. When the little black box goes off, and we jump in the trucks, we get to show up for people in that moment, and help bring some order out of their emergency situation. There's such a feeling of honour and privilege in that, when people trust us to help them."


While the nature of volunteer firefighting means that LBFR is always recruiting, Chief Barret Germscheid says he'd really like to see the team grow. "We don't have enough volunteers right now," he says. "The local fire departments have been hiring crazy numbers, so we're always looking for new volunteers." Right now the team has 27 members, with women making up about 20 percent of the team. Interested volunteers can check out the LBFR page on the Village website for more information, or email lbfradmin@lionsbay.ca.


While there's no fitness standard to volunteer, a regular day for a firefighter is no walk in the park. "Fully equipped, the standard firefighting gear alone adds 60 pounds on top of your body weight," says Germscheid. "And 100 feet of hose filled with water weighs 400 pounds. It's why teamwork is so important in this job." The chief adds that his members are a self-motivated group when it comes to fitness, doing cross-fit or racing each other up the mountain from the beach to Sunset Trail.


Some local families support LBFR by opening their homes to volunteer firefighters. Both Palmer and Lallas currently live in the village, making it easier for them to be on hand to respond to calls. Chief Germscheid notes that for the past two years, residents who offer a suite in their home to a firefighter are not required to pay the additional utility costs that normally come with letting out a suite here. But with increased housing prices, the rental situation has changed. "Unfortunately, we have a number of homes that used to hold firefighter-friendly rental suites that are now off the market," says Germscheid. "We're short-staffed right now, but if we get to the full complement of 35 or 36 members, we'll be hard-pressed to find homes for them in the community."


Other ways residents can support LBFR include making donations directly (contact Captain Mattie Gildenhuys at lbfradmin@lionsbay.ca ), or just coming out to the event this Saturday.


This year's Firefighter's Day will be held from 2-9 p.m. at Lions Bay Beach, with a barbecue, beer garden, music and an auction table planned, all in aid of raising money for the team. Come celebrate Lions Bay Fire Rescue in person!


Got thoughts to share about LBFR? Leave your comment below, or email us at editor@lionsbaywatershed.ca.

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