Camaraderie can often be the hardest thing to find in a career, not so in fire service.
“It’s really the ultimate team,” says Don Roskelley, assistant chief at Oak Bay Fire Department. “We grew up playing sports and being on teams. This job lends itself to that atmosphere.”
Oak Bay Mayor Nils Jensen presented Roskelly and fellow firefighter Duane Adsett with provincial 25-year awards on April 13.
The British Columbia Long Service Medals are awarded by the provincial government through the Fire Commissioners Office to those who have completed at least 25 years of paid or volunteer fire service in B.C. to recognize their dedication and selflessness in the protection of life and property.
“It’s a pretty prideful moment,” Roskelley said. “It was nice to have it presented by the mayor in front of council like that.”
With families on hand – Adsett says his daughter was “over the moon” at the mayor’s presence – the Oak Bay firefighters celebrated a career full of camaraderie that makes such a milestone easy to achieve.
“The guys are the biggest part,” said Adsett, who started his career as a 16-year-old volunteer in Sooke in the spring of 1989. He was also a member of Sooke’s high angle rope rescue team and auto extraction team. In 1995, he became an acting lieutenant before becoming a full lieutenant in 1997. Alongside his volunteering and training Adsett worked and trained as an apprentice carpenter, becoming a journeyman carpenter in 1997.
In July 1999, he was hired as a probationary firefighter with Oak Bay, becoming a first-class firefighter in July 2002.
In 2007, he trained to be a hazardous materials technician and became one of the first members of the CRD Regional Emergency Hazardous Material Response team.
Adsett has worked his way up the ranks in Oak Bay, qualifying as an acting lieutenant in 2006 and acting assistant chief in 2012. Also active in the Oak Bay Firefighters Association, Local 1856, Adsett served as a member of the executive board from 2003 to 2010 and 2013 to present.
A recent achievement for Roskelley took place when he was selected as goaltender for the Oak Bay/Esquimalt Firefighters Hockey Team and helped them defeat the Saanich and Victoria Firefighters to capture the prestigious “A” Cup at this year’s Greater Victoria Inter-Departmental Tournament.
Roskelley began his career in Oak Bay as a probationary firefighter on June 1, 1989. Until 1993 he served as a basic life support paramedic with the department’s ambulance while progressing to the rank of first-class firefighter. In 1999 he qualified to act in the lieutenant’s position and in 2002 he qualified as acting assistant chief. He was promoted to full lieutenant in 2003 and held that position until 2013 when he was promoted to his current rank.
Over his nearly 26-year career, Roskelley has served as the lead representative of the community CPR committee, the annual Muscular Dystrophy Boot Drive, the Fire Fighters Bursary Committee and organized the first of many Oak Bay Fire Fighters Merrython Fun Run events in aid of C-Fax Santas Anonymous. He has also served his fellow firefighters as president of the Fire Fighters Benevolent Association and president of IAFF Union Local 1856.
One standout memory in Roskelley’s quarter century as a firefighter was a decade in the making.
Back when the ambulance also worked out of the hall, Roskelley remembers being on a call with a mother in labour.
“We were there with the advanced life support paramedics, and we were there for the birth of the baby,” he recalls.
A decade later, in June 2002, a trio Oak Bay firefighters – Roskelley, Duane Adsett and former chief Gerry Adam – travelled to New York to attend one of the ongoing funerals that followed the 9/11 tragedy. They learned that the baby’s family had moved to New York, and visited with that baby girl, now a 10-year-old who – given her birth story included firefighters – had been actively involved fundraising for her neighbourhood firehouse. An entire shift of her local heroes were among the 343 FDNY firefighters and other first responders who died on Sept. 11.