Celebrating two decades of service

FIRST FIREFIGHTERS: Arne Fevang (second from left, front row) was one of the first firefighters in Sun Peaks in 1995. - Photo Submitted
FIRST FIREFIGHTERS: Arne Fevang (second from left, front row) was one of the first firefighters in Sun Peaks in 1995. – Photo Submitted

For the longest serving firefighter in Sun Peaks, two decades of work passed by quickly.

Arne Fevang was awarded with the Governor General of Canada’s Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal for 20 years of service as a volunteer firefighter in Sun Peaks. Fevang received the award at the annual Sun Peaks Firefighters’ Gala this past November.

“It didn’t take long to do 20 years to tell you the truth,” Fevang said.

Fevang joined Sun Peaks Fire Rescue (SPFR) approximately six weeks into its inception in 1995 and has been a key member ever since, serving as chief from 1997 to 2000.

He originally moved to Sun Peaks to work as a chef at Masa’s Bar + Grill and volunteered as a firefighter because “it was something to do on a Wednesday night.”

He was a part of the construction of the fire hall and has brought his knowledge and experience from working many different jobs around the resort to SPFR.

“In the early years he did a lot of the laying out of the roads and the sewers. That’s information that you’ll find in books and he’s ‘I know where that pipe is, it’s over here’ and that’s because he put the pipe in,” said Fire Chief Colin Cannon.

“It’s phenomenal. He knows every nook and cranny of this place.”

The 56-year-old has been on the response team for many of the major emergencies throughout the years. Although he wasn’t amongst the first responders, he was part of the crew that fought the infamous Delta Hotel fire in 2001.

“I showed up late because I was not on the mountain at the time but it was pretty intense. It was overwhelming,” Fevang recalled. “It was amazing that a small fire department with one fire truck could hold that thing.”

CURRENT CREW: The 30 members of SPFR at the Firefighter's Gala.
CURRENT CREW: The 30 members of SPFR at the Firefighter’s Gala.

The most memorable moment with his tenure with SPFR came last winter when the emergency crews were credited with saving the life of a patient who had gone into
cardiac arrest.

“That heart attack last winter, that was probably the craziest one I’ve been on,” Fevang said. “I’ve been on a lot of car accidents where people are dead, but that was the only time we’ve ever brought somebody back from the dead. Back at the fire hall after everybody was looking at each other like, ‘did that really happen?’”

“As a group you can handle that sort of thing and it’s kind of overwhelming but amazing at the same time. You have the other end of that too because we’ll do CPR and they’ll die on you too. You get the whole range of emotions.”

His experience is also valuable for the new members of SPFR.

“Arne loves this fire department. His presence definitely builds a lot of comradery,” said Captain Luke Harrison, training officer for SPFR. “Everything is very personal to him. It’s not just a ski season. He brings everybody in even if they are only going to be here for six months.”

“Arne’s just great. If you need something he’s a very good guy to go to. Any questions, help with anything, it’s not a problem to go to Arne,” said volunteer firefighter Alanna Vignale.

Vignale and Captain Dean Schiavon were also recognized at November’s gala. Vignale was recognized for five years of service and Schiavon was recognized for becoming the local assistant to the fire chief.

“It’s fantastic. It’s an honour to be able to acknowledge to this community the effort that is being put in by volunteers here in Sun Peaks for the betterment of this community,” Cannon said.

THE HISTORY OF SPFR: Arne is working to cover this wall with photos and articles from the past 20 years.
THE HISTORY OF SPFR: Arne is working to cover this wall with photos and articles from the past 20 years.

Member retention has always been a challenge for SPFR. Vignale became the seventh active member to reach five years with the department. There are currently 27 active volunteers and three paid firefighters.

“It’s a huge commitment. There’s a lot of time spent here,” said Schiavon, who has been a member for eight years. “It shows great commitment to this community to have them here.”

Fevang has also been leaving his legacy in the fire hall. He has created a history of SPFR by hanging photos of members throughout the years, as well as photos and articles from some of the major emergencies the department attended.

If you ask him about it, his humility shines through. The wall is a work in progress.

“Somebody has to do it,” he said. “I still have boxes of stuff to put up there yet, I’m trying to grow it.”

Looking at the current state of SPFR, Fevang said it’s the best it has even been.

“Right now is probably as good as it’s going to get,” he said. “We’ve got good people, we’ve got good synergy going between the guys at patrol, the corporation, the fire department, and it’s all coming together.”

SPFR will be looking for new recruits in 2016. Any residents of Sun Peaks or Whitecroft are welcome to join the 10 week training program beginning on Jan. 7.