If you’ve been impacted by a fire in Agassiz in the last half century, you’ve probably seen Al Pryor.
For the last 51 years, Pryor has been a firefighter with the Agassiz Fire Department, starting in March 1970 at just 16 years old.
“I was in (the Agassiz Restaurant) having a coffee, and the fire chief was in there,” Pryor remembered. “He asked me what I was doing since hockey season was over. I said, ‘I don’t know, I haven’t figured it out yet.’ And he said, ‘Why don’t you come to fire practice tomorrow morning.’”
When Pryor arrived that Sunday morning, he helped sweep the floors and take the fire trucks out for a drive. He was hooked.
For the next five decades, Pryor was a constant in the hall, answering the call of the siren that sounded whenever firefighters were needed. He was there dousing flames when a barn was burning, and there for the smaller fires with uncertain causes.
“I was a hockey player in the wintertime, so sometimes I was away for a month or so,” Pryor said. “But most of the time I was around.”
|Al Pryor in 1990 receiving his 20-year long service medal from the Agassiz Fire Department. (Agassiz Fire Department/Contributed)|
In 1978, Pryor was named the Fireman of the Year. In 1987, he took on the position of fire chief after Jim Morrow retired.
“Nobody else wanted the job,” he explained. He teamed up with Harry Basten to do the job for the year, then took on the role of fire captain.
For all of Pryor’s time at the fire hall, he’s been keenly interested in the training, both for himself and others. He’s helped new recruits learn how to operate the fire engines, and still considers Thursday night practice one of his favourite parts of the job.
“The training now at the fire hall is so good now,” Pryor said. “I think Agassiz’s got a more experienced and dedicated fire hall than many full-time fire halls.”
“The guys on the crew are very dedicated to what they do,” he continued. “They’re not there for the glory, they’re there to help the community.”
Current fire chief Gerald Basten, who Pryor used to bring along to calls when he was younger, said those same words are true about Pryor as well.
“He’s always been a great guy to work with, and a mentor and leader,” Basten said. “He’s always given 110 per cent to his community.”
Pryor’s commitment to the hall continues even as he nears his 67th birthday.
In 2017, Pryor was among the four Agassiz firefighters to travel to 100 Mile House to help fight the wildfires ravaging B.C.’s Interior. Locally, he is always available to drive the trucks or hold the fire hose.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s four in the afternoon or four in the morning,” Basten said. “You see him rolling into the parking lot.”
Pryor has no plans to stop working in the hall anytime soon.
“I’ll just keep going until I can’t do it anymore,” he said.
“There’s always something I can do at the fire hall.”