Mission fire chief Larry Watkinson is moving his family back to the Okanagan. After almost eight years with the Mission Fire Rescue Service

Mission fire chief Larry Watkinson is moving his family back to the Okanagan. After almost eight years with the Mission Fire Rescue Service

Farewell to the chief: Head of Mission Fire Rescue Service moving to Penticton

"I’ll miss the people the most. Mission was just an incredible community to come into with my family. I love where I live out in Hatzic. "

After almost eight years with the Mission Fire Rescue Service, Larry Watkinson is going home.

The fire chief has decided to return to the Okanagan to become the new chief of the Penticton Fire Department.

“It’s been a great time. Coming in as assistant chief here was a good move for me and it was a position I was really looking forward to because it was in training and in fire prevention and operations which was my passion,” he said.

Originally from Kelowna, Watkinson came to the Lower Mainland to work with the Justice Institute, overseeing all firefighter training. But he missed the atmosphere of being in the firehall and responding to emergencies.

When he saw the Mission job posting for an assistant chief, he decided to go for it.

Once accepted, he worked with chief Ian Fitzpatrick for five years, until Fitzpatrick retired.

The search was on for a new chief in Mission but Watkinson didn’t apply.

“I was still happy in my role.”

But Mission’s city manager and mayor contacted him and asked if he wanted to be appointed as chief.

“I said, with the right tools in place, yeah.”

As assistant chief, Watkinson had witnessed some difficult times at the Mission station.

“The financials were pretty tight.”

When he took the job, the district didn’t fill the assistant chief position.

“I was by myself. It was hard. There were a lot of challenges.”

But with changes in city hall, he said the vision for the fire department became more pro-active.

The empty positions were filled and more focus was put on the department.

“Right now things are really smooth running and the boat is just sailing itself. To be honest, I feel really comfortable leaving right now because I know they’ll be just fine without me at the helm,” he said.

When he took the job, he had set goals to fill.

“I was hired to be one of the leading people in the transition from a strictly paid, on-call fire department to a composite model where we have career firefighters.”

He was also on hand to negotiate the first two collective agreements and to oversee the move to a 24-hour model where a three-person truck is on duty.

“These are good days.”

But the job is still demanding, not just for Watkinson, but his whole family.

“How many times I’ve left my family at the dinner table, I couldn’t count,” he said in regard to emergency calls to which he frequently responds.

The decision to leave was hard for Watkinson but family came first.

“Primarily, it is all to do with moving my family back to the Okanagan. After adopting our boys (Kodie and Spencer), we realized it takes more than just parents to raise a family,” he said.

He knows the value of having the support of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins, all of whom are in the Okanagan.

He was already traveling back and forth to visit relatives, so when the job opportunity came up in Penticton, he and his wife, Christina, were keen to go back.

Today is Watkinson’s last day on the job. He starts in Penticton on Feb. 1.

“I’ll miss the people the most. Mission was just an incredible community to come into with my family. I love where I live out in Hatzic. I hike the trails every day. We love the wilderness here. I’ve never once run into somebody that’s been rude or not pleasant to me. I’ve always had 100 per cent respect from the community as fire chief.”

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

LEFT: Krista Macinnis, with a red handprint across her face that symbolizes the silencing of First Nations people, displays the homework assignment that her Grade 6 daughter received on Tuesday. (Submitted photo)
RIGHT: Abbotsford School District Kevin Godden says the district takes responsibility for the harm the assignment caused.
Abbotsford school district must make amends for harmful residential school assignment: superintendent

‘The first step is to unreservedly apologize for the harm … caused to our community’: Kevin Godden

web
Spiritual senior begins journey as author, 3 years after near-fatal accident in Mission

Donna Gibbons to publish ‘Haunting in Hatzic,’ the 1st in a series on her life as a medium

File photo
Outdoor recreation generates close to $1 billion annually in Fraser Valley: report

Camping, hiking and sportfishing generate the most spending, report finds

Cherry Hill Elementary. Kevin Mills photo.
Cherry Hill Elementary parents heartbroken, angry over mid-year principal swap

PAC president says she doesn’t understand why it’s happening in the middle of a pandemic

On Nov. 20, the Mission Healthcare Auxiliary presented a cheque for $100,000 to the Fraser Valley Health Care Foundation to go towards new lab equipment at Mission Regional Hospital. / Submitted Photo
Mission Healthcare Auxiliary presents $100,000 for lab equipment

Volunteers wanted to put the funds to work in a way that would benefit as many patients as possible

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

Kevin Bieksa during his days playing with the Vancouver Canucks. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)
Bieksa to guest on free Canucks Alumni ‘Hot Stove’ on Zoom app

Former NHL player has become a game analyst on Sportsnet

Elissa McLaren broke her left elbow in the Sept. 20, 2020 collision. (Submitted)
Surviving victims of fatal crash in Fraser Valley asking for help leading up to Christmas

‘This accident has taken a larger toll financially, mentally and physically than originally intended’

Chilliwack school trustee Barry Neufeld (left) and former BCTF president Glen Hansman (right).
BC Court of Appeal left to walk tightrope of freedom of expression in Neufeld-Hansman case

Is defamation lawsuit aimed at stifling free expression or does the defamation hinder free speech?

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

Most Read