Two Boundary fire chiefs received the highest recognition for service given to British Columbia firefighters Monday, Oct. 19.
The Fire Chiefs Association of B.C.’s (FCABC) Meritorious Achievement Award is a very prestigious honour given after a very meticulous committee selection.
This year’s award went to Fire Chiefs Walt Osellame of Midway Fire/Rescue and Dale Heriot, formerly of Grand Forks Fire/Rescue.
Chief Osellame was at a doctor’s appointment when Regional Fire Chief Dan Derby made the announcement at Monday morning’s FCABC meeting, broadcast via Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“It was at about 9:15 that my cell phone started going off,” Osellame said.
Friends and colleagues at the meeting were texting their congratulations, leaving him in the awkward position of having to ask what he’d won.
“It was totally unexpected,” he said. “I am completely honoured and humbled because I know the FCABC doesn’t just give this award away.”
Set to retire at the end of the month, Osellame added that he was proud to receive the award alongside Retired Chief Heriot.
Osellame said he’d asked Heriot to serve as incident commander during August 2015’s notoriously difficult Rock Creek fire. “Dale had dealt with some very serious incidents in Grand Forks, and I wasn’t going to bring in who’d never done it before.”
“I’m deeply honoured, humbled and gratified. It’s exciting,” Heriot said before returning Osellame’s praise.
“I want to congratulate Chief Osellame. Anyone who puts 40 years in the fire service — that’s pretty commendable.”
Regional Chief Derby congratulated both recipients in his address to the FACBC Monday.
Retired Chief Heriot’s “kind approach ensured that every member felt welcome and their struggles were shared by the membership,” Derby said.
“The [Kootenay] Zone was well served by this officer and his absence has not gone unnoticed.”
Derby complimented Osellame’s efforts to co-ordinate B.C. firefighters’ training and education, adding, “His contributions to the Zone and humour will be missed by all.”