Rory Thompson already had a varied and illustrious career when he came to Langley City Fire Rescue as chief in January 2011.
The bell rang for his last call-out on Friday, April 29, as he was feted for his work here and throughout his 48-year career in fire services before Scott Kennedy accepted to mantle as the City’s new fire chief.
At points during the afternoon ceremony, both men became choked up speaking about their careers and the next chapters in their lives as colleagues from various departments, and other dignitaries looked on.
Dan Gray, president of IAFF Local 3253, noted that Thompson brought in extra training through the Justice Institute of B.C. (JIBC) for every firefighter.
City politicians and staff praised the work Thompson has done to increase the professional standards within the service.
“You have led us through fires, floods, droughts and of course the pandemic, and you have consistently demonstrated an admirable degree of dignity and calm through all of this,” said City Mayor Val van den Broek.
Thompson said he’s see a great many changes in the fire services over those decades.
“The first apparatus that I drove was a 1957 LaFrance engine, which pumped 500 gallons a minute. And of course, these new trucks we have here, they’re a lot more reliable, and they pump about 1,750 gallons per minute. Huge changes in apparatus.”
When he started in the early 1970s, breathing apparatus was used mine rescue gear with inflatable lungs. Now modern gear offers better protection of firefighters, including thermal imaging gear, better communications gear, fire investigations and more.
“What hasn’t changed is the indomitable can-do attitude of the firefighters,” Thompson said. “That’s been the same throughout the years, and it’s really kind of neat to be part of an organization of people constantly striving to get out there and help people in the community.”
Thompson handed the fire chief’s helmet to Kennedy as part of an official changeover.
“The City’s going to be in great hands,” Thompson said.
Kennedy started with the City fire service in 1994 and became a permanent member a few years later. He’s worked at the JIBC as a fire technician, which is where he first met Thompson who was the program director around 2007 .
Both would end up at the City fire department.
“He gave us ownership of what we were doing,” Kennedy said of Thompson.
Kennedy said Thompson’s leadership gave him a successful road map to lead the City department.
“The biggest benefit of that was the buy in he got from the department,” Kennedy said. “You taught us a lot.”
A last page out over the radio system was done as part of the ceremony before Thompson and his wife, Kathy Dempsey, boarded Engine 1 which was driven off to the cheers of the crowd.
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