Central Saanich Fire Chief takes province job

After 16 years, Ron French has accepted a new position with the B.C. Fore Commissioners Office.

Central Saanich Fire Chief Ron French has taken a new job with the B.C. Fire Commissioner’s office.

After 16 years as the Fire Chief for the Central Saanich Volunteer Fire Department, Ron French is bidding farewell as he moves onto work with the province.

Guests and council members at Monday night’s council meeting stood for a loud round of applause, thanking French for his time.

“I think that you’re an individual who will be remembered for a long time in this community for your ability to guide the volunteer fire department as well as you have. I want to extend my thanks as the current mayor …” said Mayor Ryan Windsor.

French’s career began in Kelowna where he was a volunteer firefighter. He later moved to North Saanich and was at their fire department for 12 years, serving as their deputy chief. He went on to work for the Victoria airport’s fire department full time for a year, before moving into his role as Fire Chief of the Central Saanich Volunteer Fire Department.

After a long career, French thought it was time to retire, but a job offer came in from the province to become the deputy fire commissioner — a job he just couldn’t turn down.

“(I’m) retired for a day,” he joked.

“This is my 33rd year with a pager and responding to calls 24/7 and running the department and I looked at the department, where it’s at right now with their capabilities, and I brought the department, I think, as far as I could bring it right now,” he told the PNR.

There are quite a few things the department was able to achieve during French’s stint as Chief.

They’ve improved their equipment to state of the art quality for the volunteers to be able to perform their jobs and a replacement plan is in place to keep them on track for what new equipment they need.

“Probably the major thing is the new station that we’ve built, the post disaster station for the volunteers to operate out of and have an emergency operation centre for the municipality that’s going to be standing in a sizeable earthquake event,” he said.

He said recruitment and retention of their volunteers has also been strong over the years.

“We always have a waiting list of people that want to join our department,” he said, adding that it’s a strong office with a good officer pool and a good bunch of volunteers.

French won’t be moving far.

His new office will still be in Central Saanich at Emergency Management B.C (EMBC) where the office of the fire commissioner is.

No replacement has been named yet as the municipality is looking at starting a hiring process for a new fire chief.