For his last day of work on Friday, Campbell River Fire Chief Ian Baikie was told he was not to drive to work.
He was picked up by the crew from the department’s second station and brought to work. At the end of the day, he got a special ride home on one of the fire trucks from Hall No. 1.
“I am being taken home, I’m told,” he said with a smirk. “I have actually not got a good vision of today. Others have arranged my day.”
By the afternoon, firefighters past and present gathered in a line inside the hall to greet Baikie as he made his way out the door, while Phyllis Baikie, his aunt, played the bagpipes. After several minutes of piping, goodbyes and a round of applause, Baikie climbed into the fire truck that was to take him on his last commute home.
As far as the lead-up to his last day, Baikie has had a lot more input. Actually, he started planning for it with the city a few years ago and was able to appoint Thomas Doherty as a deputy to take over when he retired.
“I set this target to retire at the age of 60 when I was 31,” he said, after having turned 60 in June.
“I’m on schedule,” he added.
Baikie has been with the Campbell River Fire Department for more than 30 years, starting in 1985 as a volunteer, then joining Hall No. 1 as a firefighter in 1989. He was promoted to assistant fire chief in 1997 and deputy chief in 2006.
He first joined up after moving back to his hometown from university, as he was looking for a way to get involved with the community.
“It seemed like a natural fit for me,” he said. “I was quite young and active, and it made sense.”
He has found the work exciting and meaningful, though firefighting was different then in terms of training and safety, as he recalls having to go into fires almost from the outset. Now, it’s a much longer process to meet qualifications and more demanding.
“I’d attended quite a number of calls before I’d been with them for a few months,” he said. “I was actually allowed to work inside burning buildings within four weeks of joining the department.”
Over the years, he has served as a member of the first safety committee created in the 1990s.
Along the way, he has been involved in creating and maintaining better radio systems, designing and building better firefighting apparatus, training in hazardous materials response and confined space rescue and, more recently, training for skills like rope rescue.
Baikie stresses it is important for the department to be up to date because it is a long way from other departments and does not have a close mutual aid partner.
“We tended to have to be self-sufficient and still do,” he said.
While the training and standards have changed over time, so have the fires. Baikie recalls how much more frequent woodstove fires were years ago, but because of better education around safety and emphasis on inspections, along with other types of fires such as from commercial kitchens, people have become more aware of how to avoid having to call in the fire department in the first place.
“The fire service has put a lot of effort into not having fires occur,” he said.
Baikie describes his career as moving in blocks of five years or so, as he has taken on new responsibilities, which now end with a little more than five years as chief. He never planned on becoming chief one day but simply responded to various chances he has had along the way to learn more.
“I’m just so happy to have had these opportunities,” he said.
Starting this month, he expects to spend more time with his wife Sherry and children Andrea and Eric, as well as devote more time to community work through the Rotary Club on projects as such as the viewing platform at the Tyee Spit.
Baikie knows the department will also be in good hands with Doherty taking over as chief.
“The fire department is in a good place,” he said. “I can see that the future is bright for the fire department moving forward.”