Public education officer Gary Proznick, aboard Township of Langley Firefighters’ Charities engine 4550, driven by TLFD fire prevention officer Ken Strand during Proznick’s walk-out ceremony held Oct. 30. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Fire education officer hangs up his helmet

Cptn. Gary Proznick retired after a dozen years of teaching safety to kids in Langley

by Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times

Cptn. Gary Proznick recently marked his last day leading the charge toward total fire safety in the Township of Langley.

And it’s not much of an exaggeration to say a large percentage of people living in the Langleys – from elementary school kids, to their parents, to business owners and seniors – identifies fire safety with Proznick.

The Township of Langley fire department’s public education officer hung up his helmet after 12 years of fire safety talks, firehall tours, and bringing the fire safety house to schools at the end of last month.

“What I’m going to miss most is the people; my coworkers and the groups of children we work with in the schools,” he said.

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“The little ones were always so excited to see the fire engine, they’d crawl out of their skin when they got to the firehall.”

Proznick began his time with the fire department in January 2003 as a paid-on-call member of Hall #7 in Otter, and retired from the hall in 2013 as a lieutenant and honourary member.

In 2008 he came to the professional fire service as a public fire and life safety educator after a 23-year teaching career that left a trail of well-educated young minds at schools in Langley, Burnaby, Coquitlam and Vancouver.

He earned his stripes as the fire department’s public education officer the next year.

Proznick’s colleague, the department’s cudrrent public fire and life safety educator, Krista Barton, says they have calculated that the two engaged more than 150,000 community members since they started working together in September 2009.

Barton insists she’s learned a lot working with Proznick.

“I want to carry on what he’s set out, moving forward with his legacy and how he is able to interact with everyone,” she said.

“It has been amazing to watch. He can interact with a three-year-old, and then move right on to a 103-year-old, and always make fire safety seem fun, but important.

“His knowledge, guidance and leadership pushed me to be a better educator.”

During the course of his career, Proznick said he particularly enjoyed arriving at a school with the fire safety house in tow, and seeing how excited the kids were.

“For every valuable fire safety lesson you provide,” he shared, “you will potentially be saving someone’s life.”

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In 2018, the Fire Prevention Officers’ Association of B.C. named Proznick the public educator of the year for outstanding achievement and dedication in public fire and life safety education.

Oct. 30 was his last shift and a traditional walk-out ceremony was held at the Murrayville firehall to wish him well as he begins the next chapter.

At the ceremony, Township chief Stephen Gamble spoke and read salutations from Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese, and IAFF Local 4550 president Andy Hewitson spoke of his high regard for Proznick and the importance of fire safety programming in the community.

Proznick says he is looking forward to relaxing at his cabin on Lake Canim, near 100 Mile House, and exploring British Columbia with his wife, Jay.

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Public education officer Gary Proznick in his walk-out ceremony on Oct. 30. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Public education officer Gary Proznick answered a retirement tribute from fire dispatch during his walk-out ceremony at the Murrayville firehall on Oct. 30. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Gary Proznick in 2012 spoke at the Township of Langley fire department's Safety Stars event. (Special to Langley Advance Times)

Public education officer Gary Proznick answered a retirement tribute from fire dispatch during his walk-out ceremony at the Murrayville firehall on Oct. 30. (Jhim Burwell/Special to Langley Advance Times)

Retiring public education officer Gary Proznick. (Special to Langley Advance Times)