Grand Forks Fire Rescue will have a new fire chief in the new year, as current Chief Blair Macgregor will be retiring.
In all, Macgregor has been with the department for 32 years, serving as fire chief for the last 16.
“Initially, I was a volunteer and then I went through the ranks from a captain into the deputy chief’s job and then into chief,” Macgregor says.
“I’ve always been interested in the fire department. My brother-in-law had been on the fire department and my older brother had started with the fire department and at the time, they only took on so many members at a time so I was actually on a waiting list for four years before I got on.”
Of the fires that Macgregor had to fight during his time with the department, the ones that burned down three hotels (the Province, Yale and Longhorn) are blazes that stick out in his mind.
The fire involving the Province Hotel occurred in the early ‘80s when Macgregor was fairly new to the department.
“The old Gazette building was right beside it and part of the brick wall came tumbling down at one point and the bricks flew out from between the Gazette and the bank onto 2nd Street when the wall came down,” Macgregor reminisces.
“That was a real eye opener because at that time, it was probably the biggest fire I had ever seen.”
The 1991 Yale Hotel blaze took place when Macgregor was deputy chief and he says it was truly a battle.
“We fought that fire for about two and a half days and in between fighting that, we had fairly major house fires within the same time so we were taking apparatuses and manpower from one fire and taking it to the other one, so that was pretty exciting,” he says.
The third memorable fire that Macgregor had a hand in fighting was in 2000 and one that hit close to home.
“The third fire was the Longhorn Hotel, which was right next door to the fire hall and I had just become the chief and so I was in charge of that one,” says Macgregor.
Macgregor said that on top of his duties with the fire department, the fire chief also acts as municipal emergency co-ordinator, which entails looking after flooding or any other disasters within the city, and duties such as fire inspection.
Another thing that has occurred during his time with the department is
getting superior tanker shuttle accreditation from the insurance underwriters.
“It gives a lot of the homeowners out in the valley the same insurance rating as if they had a fire
hydrant, which is incredible because we’re one of about four departments in B.C. that has it,” Macgregor explains.
“I think that’s a very big plus for the community.”
Macgregor has had a long stint with the fire department and says he has no regrets.
“It’s been a really good career. I couldn’t have done it without all the different volunteers we’ve had over the years,” he says.
With Macgregor’s retirement, Deputy Chief Dale Heriot will be elevated to fire chief.
“In the new year, (Heriot) will be appointed acting chief and the last day after all my holidays are used up then he’ll be the full-fledged chief,” Macgregor went on to say.