After 32 years, Captain Inspector Ken Gill is hanging up his helmet.
Best known as the Oak Bay Fire Department’s fire prevention officer for 17 of those 32 years, Gill said his connection with the department will be missed and, despite not being an Oak Bay resident, he felt welcomed both by his peers and the community.
“I think there’s a real sense of pride and honour in our fire department. All our people are aware and cognizant of the history of the department and where we come from and how we are depended on by the community,” he said. “There is no call too small … that gives us a sense of being part of the community whether you live there or not. I spent all my working hours here and you become part of the Oak Bay culture.”
Gill began his career as a fire dispatcher with Langford in the early 1980s, moved to the Department of National Defense at CFB Esquimalt and eventually to his post with the Oak Bay Fire Department, following in the footsteps of his father and father-in-law, both of whom spent time as firefighters.
“My father put in 40 years as a volunteer with Sidney Fire Department. I grew up with him responding to the sirens, so I grew up around the fire service and grew up around the fire hall,” he said. “I was also very interested in getting into policing. … It was a toss up and some opportunities came up and I felt like I was more suited for a fire background than police.”
Having worked with Gill for years, Oak Bay fire chief Dave Cockle said he is glad Gill made that choice and his customer-oriented personality, professional attitude and open-minded approach were strengths he brought to the department every day.
“He has been a great ambassador for fire. He just built a wealth of knowledge which we are losing through his retirement,” Cockle said. “He’s also a longtime member of the International Association of Firefighters as an executive member involved with community organizations. He is just a really well-rounded individual. He will be missed.”
Gill spent many hours not only on the truck, but on commercial projects working with the fire suppression systems and fire safety in new building construction, including multi-million dollar projects at the Oak Bay Beach Hotel and the new Oak Bay High school. He worked hand-in-hand with the municipality’s building inspectors, including Oak Bay director of building and planning Roy Thomassen.
“I think he has been a very dedicated fire prevention officer and worked well with other departments to maintain the safety of Oak Bay residents,” Thomassen said. “I think he just really communicated well with the community and that was key for the municipality.”
Gill was born at the Resthaven Hospital in Sidney and lives in Central Saanich with Marie, his wife of 32 years. They have two grown children, Brian who is training to be a paramedic in North Vancouver and Ashley, who is in her second year training to become a nurse.
Now that he is retiring, Gill hopes to spend a little more time with them, and is preparing his trailer to do some camping before heading out to the Grand Canyon on vacation.
“I am going to miss the guys,” said Gill. “Part of the fire department culture is a good sense of humour and a sense of caring for each other and you work closely with the guys. I’m also going to miss the professional relationships you have in my job. … those personal one-on-one relationships that have been forged,” he said. “In 1997, through some fortunate circumstances, I had an opportunity to apply to Oak Bay’s fire prevention and of course I’m finishing up here. I have been very blessed.”