Doug Olund has packed away his firefighting gear after more than 43 years with the Mission fire department.
Olund joined the fire service in September 1970, after spending years chasing the engines around on his own.
The recently retired station one district chief remembers going to the bus depot downtown every time he heard the fire trucks. He would follow them to their destination to see what was going on.
“I wondered where they were going,” he said.
Then one day, the fire chief at the time, Ray Johnston, suggested Olund joined them instead.
Olund enjoyed working with others and helping people. He didn’t know what the work would be like, but the decision wasn’t difficult.
The first fire he put out was on the train bridge. Someone had been welding on the bridge and the railway ties caught fire, Olund recalled.
Another call Olund will never forget happened in 1976 when he and another firefighter pulled a woman out of a burning building on Fifth Avenue and saved her life.
“The biggest thing is about saving a life,” explained Olund, who received an award for that heroic deed. “That plaque means more to me than anything.”
There have been many fires in Mission over the past 40-plus years and Olund can easily identify which structures in town have been burned.
There have been many changes in firefighting over the past four decades, but the most significant improvements, in Olund’s mind, were the safety advances.
When he first got involved with the service there were half a dozen self-contained breathing apparatuses (SCBA) at the hall and his uniform only consisted of a top coat, helmet and a pair of boots.
Now the fire station has 100 SCBA and firefighting gear that covers you from head to toe. Now nobody has to cough when they enter a smoke-filled building, he explained.
At his retirement party this past weekend, Fire Chief Larry Watkinson noted Olund has responded to 8,956 calls for service since 1993 when the department began keeping statistics on firefighter responses.
“Doug is a natural-born leader,” stated Watkinson. “He is very highly respected by all ranks of the fire service.”
Olund is the “epitome” of a firefighter, which is why Watkinson asked Olund to chair a committee to create core values for Mission Fire/Service after his retirement.
“I will miss it,” said Olund about the fire service. He officially retired April 1. “It was a big part of my life.”
Olund was born in North Vancouver, and grew up in Mission. He joined Mission Fire/Rescue even before he was married.
“All good things must come to an end,” he noted. “It’s better to go out on a high than a low.”
Olund, who retired as a carpenter with the Mission School District almost two years ago, says he will continue to volunteer and be involved in the community.
“I have no plans to leave. I’ve been here too long.”