Oak Bay bids farewell to deputy chief

Simple plan for retirement includes summer at home

Oak Bay Fire Deputy Chief Tom Pearse officially retires April 30 after 28 years with the department. Assistant Chief Darren Hughes takes over the deputy position May 1.

Oak Bay Fire Deputy Chief Tom Pearse officially retires April 30 after 28 years with the department. Assistant Chief Darren Hughes takes over the deputy position May 1.

Dress uniform-clad firefighters lined the side wall and back of council chambers as the mayor offered a sendoff.

An honour guard stood at the door as Mayor Nils Jensen bid adieu to Deputy Chief Tom Pearse. He started May 1, 1988 as a probationary firefighter and retires April 30 as deputy chief.

“You exemplify our firefighting unit,” said Jensen, launching into a lengthy list of Pearse’s accomplishments and commitments, including serving as chair of the bursary committee, initiating the annual tree recycling, serving as CPR education chair and working with juvenile intervention.

“That’s something that really gives back,” Jensen said. The opportunity to give back to the community is one of the reasons Pearse joined the department in the first place. He wasn’t disappointed, enjoying the moments educating children to be “prepared not scared.”

“A highlight would be teaching fire safety and fire prevention to our citizens, particularly the kids. Kids are so enthusiastic about learning,” he said.

Pearse taught programs such as the Fire Safety House, school fire drills and in recent years, the Grade 3 emergency prep program through the Oak Bay Emergency Program and fire hall tours.

There are of course other moments that stand out.

An epic road trip marked 2010. He and then fire chief Gerry Adam flew to Columbus, Ohio and drove their then-new fire engine the 4,000 kilometres back to Oak Bay.

“It was a very fun trip,” he says. Fuel stops at small-town service stations along the way offered much fodder.

“We got some very interesting looks and comments like ‘what the heck is an Oak Bay’?” he said. They encountered a few minor mechanical issues and one instance of chief doused in antifreeze, but “other than that, things went smoothly.”

Though thought of most commonly when there’s a blaze, another standout memory sits firmly on the other end of the thermometer. During the blizzard of 1996 Pearse worked the day after the big snowfall and didn’t return home for days.

“I was here five or six days … (Greater Victoria) was at a standstill,” he said.

Co-ordination and co-operation with public works and they had streets cleared and things moving.

“Some lessons were learned and things improved upon,” he said. “We’re good at that here at the fire department.”

Family support is critical while working a four-on-four-off rotation with both day and night shifts in a 9-to-5, Monday-to-Friday world. He got it in spades from his wife and extended family.

“One of the things that allowed me to do the job with confidence that things were good at home was the support of my wife and family,” he said

During the first year of retirement, Pearse and wife Susan plan to “enjoy a summer at home.” Both enjoy hiking and outdoors as well as tending to their expansive veggie patch. A visit with their daughter in the Yukon is also in the planning phase.

“The following year, 2017, is just kind of open. We’re going to see what comes along,” Pearse said.

Assistant Chief Darren Hughes takes over the deputy position May 1 and a new assistant chief has yet to be decided.

“We’re certainly sorry to see Tom go; he has very strong leadership skills,” Hughes said.

Among his projects, Pearse was key in implementing the health and wellness initiative last year at the fire hall.

Hughes, a 23-year Oak Bay firefighter, held the assistant chief title just shy of three years and anticipates a higher administrative load with the promotion to second in charge.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “I’ve been fortunate having been with Oak Bay so long, and hired quite young. I’ve seen a lot of change in the fire service.”

The changes extend well beyond modern equipment – modest at the small local firehall – into maintaining quality skills. Firefighters today are expected less to be a “jack of all trades” and more an “expert of all trades,” he said.

“It is the people that make the difference. The people are what make the department operate at a high level,” Hughes said. “My job now is to ensure we provide those skills and tools so they can do their jobs well.”

Pearse shares Hughes’ sentiment that the good people made Oak Bay Fire a great place to finish a career.

“I can say I’ve enjoyed coming to work every day,” Pearse said, crediting the firefighters and administration. “If it wasn’t for them, we’d be an average fire department doing an average job and that’s not who we are.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The fine for changing lanes or merging over a solid line costs drivers $109 and two penalty points in B.C. (Screenshot via Google Street View)
B.C. drivers caught crossing, merging over solid white lines face hefty fine

Ticket for $109, two penalty points issued under Motor Vehicle Act for crossing solid lines

Saanich council approves of a five-story multi-family development at 300 Gorge Road West and 2900 Tillicum Road. (Rendering via Alan Lowe Architect Inc.)
Saanich approves five-storey, mixed-use development for Tillicum area

Plans include 53 residential units, three commercial units at Tillicum Road, Gorge Road West

Coun. Niall Paltiel of Central Saanich has filed a notice of motion directing staff to work with the WSANEC leadership council to develop a program leading toward the “gradual incorporation of traditional WSANEC names for key collector and arterial roads”(Black Press Media File)
Central Saanich councillor wants road signs to use WSANEC names

Coun. Niall Paltiel proposes ‘gradual incorporation of traditional WSANEC names’ for key roads

Sooke’s Amy McLaughlin holds Theodore, a bunny who will be going to a new owner in Nanaimo within the coming days if all goes will at an upcoming bunny play-date. (Aaron Guillen/News Staff)
Sooke woman looking to hop into bigger space for bunny business

Amy McLaughlin has rescued over 400 bunnies across the Island, mainland

People skate on a lake in a city park in Montreal, Sunday, January 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Graham Hughes
The end of hugs: How COVID-19 has changed daily life a year after Canada’s 1st case

Today marks the one year anniversary of COVID-19 landing in Canada

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

A registered nurse prepares a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine in Halifax on Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. Yukon’s Minister of Community Services, John Streiker, says he’s outraged that a couple from outside the territory travelled to a remote community this week and received doses of COVID-19 vaccine. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan-POOL
Couple charged after travelling to Yukon to get COVID-19 vaccine

The maximum fine under the emergency measures act is $500, and up to six months in jail

Metis Nation of B.C. President Clara Morin Dal Col poses in this undated handout photo. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. The Metis Nation of B.C. says Dal Col has been suspended from her role as president. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Metis Nation of B.C. *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Metis Nation of B.C. suspends president, citing ‘breach’ of policies, procedures

Vice-president Lissa Smith is stepping in to fill the position on an acting basis

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks in the in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Payette shouldn’t get same benefits as other ex-governors general: O’Toole

Former governors general are entitled to a pension and also get a regular income paid to them for the rest of their lives

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Most Read