No joke, Fire Chief Darren Hughes officially rounds 30 years of working for the Oak Bay department the day he retires.
Hughes was hired April 1, 1992 back in the days when the fire hall on Monterey Avenue also staffed and housed an ambulance. While the timing seems a bit funny, it really boils down to the weather.
While deciding when to retire, he batted around many ideas, then determined spring really made sense. Hughes does, after all, intend to spend much of his time outdoors.
Hiking, biking and all aspects of enjoying the ocean – whether in the water wearing a wet suit or atop the waves cruising up the B.C. coast – are all on the agenda.
Despite her being an avid gardener, Hughes figures his wife Michelle will make the sacrifice and join him on the trips. Their son Adam, a first-year university student – will likely be otherwise engaged.
Those long days at sea should provide some peace after 30 years in what can be a stressful career.
Many assume Hughes became a firefighter because that’s what his father did – it’s not that simple. There was actually a slight parental lean toward engineering, but that support shifted seamlessly when Hughes went into emergency services.
“I think I looked at firefighting – as a young person – looking at the challenges, problem solving and excitement,” he said. “I’m grateful every day for the career I got into and the people I get to work with.”
While the exterior of the fire hall – built in 1938 with upgrades in the 1960s – hasn’t changed much in the last three decades, operations inside have developed significantly.
“When I started I would categorize how a firefighter operates as a jack of all trades, master of none,” Hughes said. Now, firefighters come on fully certified and ready for practical skill development, plus training and equipment upgrades are constant.
Among his most memorable calls is one that dates back to those early days, perhaps as far as that first year with theambulance. Hughes calls it his first patient with a successful outcome – using an early version, large and unwieldy automated external defibrillator (AED).
When firefighters showed up at his door the man had no vital signs.
Two months later he had them over for tea.