For more than a decade Joe Geary has volunteered countless hours to keep the residents of Sidney safe as the assistant fire chief, but the former plumber is moving on having accepted a position as the new fire chief in Christina Lake.
“I’m looking forward to it,” says Geary, who officially accepted the job offer Christmas Eve. “It’s time for a change. Time for me to move on in fire service.”
When the Island-born and raised 45-year-old sold Sidney Plumbing, his “day job” of more than 18 years, he knew it was time to pursue the dream of firefighting full time.
Suiting up alongside Sidney’s 40-odd firefighters, Geary has been on the scene for some of the more memorable fires the community has suffered, including the blaze that torched the Blue Peter Pub back in 2011 and the three yachts and boat houses that went up in flames at the Van Isle Marina in 2009.
Geary is humble when he speaks about his time with the department crediting its “excellent training program” for his growth as a firefighter.
“That’s what put me at the top for this job posting,” he says. “The education and experience I got with Sidney Fire is top notch.”
Fire Chief Brett Mikkelsen says Geary is one of the first members he has called upon to be dispatched to regions of the province where the Sidney department went to help fight wildfires the past two summers.
So, he’s well-versed in the skills required for that type of call, Mikkelson points out, more frequent in the Interior where Christina Lake is located.
“The fact that he’s been able to acquire these considerable qualifications in such a short time is a real testament to his dedication and his work,” Mikkelsen says.
Creating an environment where a member like Geary can achieve that advanced level of certification as a fire officer is something the chief is proud of when it comes to the crew in Sidney.
“That’s not commonplace on the Peninsula,” he says. “Not every department affords those opportunities to their volunteer members.”
Mikkelsen, who calls Geary “a close friend,” plans to make the trek to the Kootenay town in the early spring to check in on him and see how things are going.
“I’m sure there will be a little bit of Sidney in the Christina Lake fire department,” Mikkelsen says, grinning.