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Shuswap senior helps regional district hit firefighting milestone

Click to play video: '78-year-old Shuswap man earns firefighting certification' 78-year-old Shuswap man earns firefighting certification
WATCH: A Shuswap senior is celebrating a career milestone he never expected to hit, after becoming a fully certified exterior firefighter at age 78. His achievement has also helped his local regional district meet its 2020 training goal despite pandemic challenges – Jan 10, 2021

A Shuswap senior is celebrating a career milestone he never expected to hit after becoming a fully certified exterior firefighter at age 78.

His achievement has also helped his local regional district meet its 2020 training goal despite pandemic challenges.

When Mike Thoms retired from being a painter/decorator in Calgary and moved to the Shuswap in B.C.’s Southern Interior, he didn’t expect to become a firefighter.

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In fact, the then 65-year-old thought it was a “long shot” at his age.

However, when he tried out it turned out he enjoyed it. Firefighting has now become a passion for the Swansea Point resident.

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13 years later, the 78-year-old is still serving with the Swansea Point Volunteer Fire Department.

In December, after years of training, he reached a milestone he never expected when he became a fully certified exterior firefighter.

“I’m very humbled and I’m very glad that I had people that said, ‘Mike you can do this,'” Thoms said.

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Thoms’ certification also helped the Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) meet its 2020 goal of having 150 of its roughly 300 paid-on-call firefighters certified to BC professional standards.

“It’s hard achieving this standard, it’s physically demanding, it’s mentally demanding and it’s a big time commitment,” Derek Sutherland, the CSRD’s team lead for protective services, said.

“We just really appreciate Mike and all his colleagues for everything they do to step up and put in the time that it takes to do the job and do the job well.”

The CSRD’s training goal faced setbacks when training was, at times, interrupted by COVID-19.

However, in the end, dozens of CSRD firefighters achieved certification in 2020 and, just under the wire, Thoms became the 150 certified to meet the regional district’s goal.

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“I’m honoured to be number 150….because I never thought I would even go that far,” Thoms said.

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While Thoms will jump on the hose when needed, his main role is as a rehab officer, which the regional district said involves “monitoring the health and safety of firefighters when they are battling blazes.”

“He worked with Sicamous paramedics to be trained in monitoring vital signs and blood pressure, and has gone on to help train rehab officers for other CSRD departments,” the CSRD said in a news release.

The newly certified firefighters are assets to their communities.

“A certified firefighter can do just about every job on a fire ground. They can safely and effectively action a structure fire or a car fire or any of the duties that our firefighters do and we can have a great deal of confidence it is going to get actioned well,” Sutherland said.

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The regional district is continuing its push to have more members certified and Thoms is not taking his foot off the gas either.

“Ass long as I can do it I will do it… If you have a passion for things you get stronger,” Thoms said.

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