2010 Local Heroes: Paul Agar

Click here to read the profiles of our other Local Heroes for 2010. Fire in the blood By Jeff Rollings, Photography by Pete Paterson Deputy Chief Paul Agar has been…

November 23, 2010 | | Back Issues | Community | Local Heroes | Winter 2010

Click here to read the profiles of our other Local Heroes for 2010.

Fire in the blood

By Jeff Rollings, Photography by Pete Paterson

Deputy Chief Paul Agar has been a member of Grand Valley’s volunteer fire department for an astonishing forty-three years. In that time – longer than most professional fire-fighting careers – Paul has given roughly 10,000 hours of his life to training and operation of the fire station.

Beyond that, based on his own loose estimate of three hours a month at actual calls, he has spent more than 1,500 hours dealing with burning buildings, car crash victims, floods, medical distress and all the other mishaps and mayhem we find ourselves in.

He’s just the sort of guy you want around in an emergency, too. Calm, analytical, unflappable. Able to find a moment’s humour in the midst of catastrophe.

Paul has witnessed a lot in all that time, and most individual incidents have merged in his memory. In general though, he says, “Car crashes are the worst at first. You’re often the first one there and you don’t know what you’ll have to deal with. People may be trapped, or dead. Although the same thing can be true with fires. For that matter, we’ve had fatalities on medical assistance calls, too.”

The hardest part of the job comes not from the cause of the emergency, but rather from whom it involves. “Grand Valley is a small community. I’ve lived here a long time and I know people. So getting a call to a car accident or a fire and finding family or friends…” His voice trails off. Reflectively, he adds, “You don’t like to see that.”

Paul has served as acting chief three times, stepping in as needed when chiefs move on. Clearly a team player, he says “Acting chief, deputy chief, whatever. Doesn’t matter to me.”

The Grand Valley department has a roster of thirty volunteers, currently including one woman, though Paul says, “There were three or four at one point.” It also includes Paul’s son Michael, a captain with sixteen years experience.

There’s been a turnover on the force of about four people a year recently, but Paul says, “We’ve been fortunate. When we have openings and run a recruitment, people have always answered.” Of those who come forward, “Some decide ‘it’s not for me,’ either because it takes too much time or it’s too much physically. There’s a lot of training involved.”

From January through mid-October, 2010, the Grand Valley department responded to seventy-eight calls. Paul says, “There’s been a cut-back on medical calls since the ambulance station opened here,” though he points out that the overall number of calls grows along with the population.

The social aspect is what drew Paul to the fire department in the first place, and it’s what has kept him coming back all these years. “The camaraderie is the big thing. All the friendships you make. A lot of people have come and gone, but you stay friends with them forever.”

At 63, Paul acknowledges that some day he’ll have to stop playing with fire trucks, though it’s likely a long way off. Even when his active service days are over, he plans to volunteer at the station.

“It would be hard to leave it now,” he says. “It gets in your blood.”

Click here to read the profiles of our other Local Heroes for 2010.

About the Author More by Bethany Lee

Bethany Lee is a freelance writer who lives in Mono.

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