In the spring of 1997 a snowshoe guide joined Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR) as a volunteer. He had no experience, just moved to the community and spent the winter packing down a few trails and taking guests out.
Looking for a way to get involved and give back to the community he signed up. His first few calls turned into nine years volunteering, eight years as a career prevention officer, five years as chief and, as of Dec. 1, 2019, retiring as chief to spend time with his family.
Colin Cannon continued to operate snowshoe tours and rentals while volunteering and eventually making a career at the department.
As a new recruit he remembered being called to a lodge where guests had placed a presto log in a gas fireplace and getting hooked.
“I was walking home and the page came and I remember running home to my car then getting geared up and going to that call…the room was filled with smoke. They had tried to take the log outside, but of course once they are burning it falls apart so there was log everywhere and fire dropping.
“I just remember the craziness of this is what we get to deal with…the fire department has a good adrenaline rush.”
When he first arrived he was one of 10 volunteers and the hall had just been built. Over the years that number grew and eventually as chief he and two career captains managed and trained around 30 volunteers and ran an annual six-month work experience program highly regarded across the province.
Cannon said some of the accomplishments he’s most proud of are creating an inclusive environment that is conducive to high volunteer numbers and working as a team with the captains instead of taking a top-down management style.
“We have from an 18-year-old to 60 years old plus. We also have far more ladies than the standard and it’s down to the fact that we have a culture of including people here.
“Dean (Schiavon) and Joss (Advocaat) have been dedicated 1000 per cent and as a chief I couldn’t ask for any more supportive captains than these two. It’s such a difference when you can rely on the captains.”
In addition to keeping morale upbeat and the hall accessible, Cannon said he’s also glad to have made changes in the functionality and appearance of the hall.
“I’m proud that the look and functionality is different and I believe better than when I walked in…I like how it looks, you walk in and it’s got snap, it just pops. Without spending a lot of the taxpayer’s money and with a lot of volunteer hours we were able to make the firehall look a lot better than it did 10 years ago.”
Above all Cannon said he feels honoured to have helped the community.
“I truly believe a community is made up of the people that live in it. Better communities have people that give back. I started Scouts five years ago as a volunteer too and I’m still doing it. Each one of us has the ability to give back.
“I’m hard wired to help people and this is the best type of help we can do. You show up when someone is having a terrible day and do whatever you can to make it better.”
Over his tenure Cannon has lead the department through growth. This year SPFR responded to more calls by the end of September than in any year before.
But despite retiring from his role as chief Cannon plans to stay on as a volunteer, carry a pager and assist whenever possible.
“I’ve been around 22 years…I’ve seen stuff that can be useful for people that have never seen fires.
“I’m not wanting out, I just want to spend more time with my family. The number one reason is James (Cannon’s son with wife Maria) is 15, I’ve got two years before he’s off.”
In December Cannon will officially retire and current fire prevention officer Dean Schiavon will take over as chief.
“You have to realize you’re going to go eventually and have to hire people that can move up into the chief’s job, which Dean has done in the best way.
“If I miss the next two or three years of spending time with him (James) and my wife…I realized I’ve got this window of opportunity so let’s do it.”