Masset’s new fire chief offers basic training

Sam Thorgeirson takes on chief’s role after getting top marks at Texas firefighting school.

A 24-year-old paramedic who finished top of his class at a firefighting school in Kilgore, Texas, Sam Thorgeirson is Masset’s newest fire chief. (File photo/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Sam Thorgeirson is getting a warm welcome as Masset’s newest fire chief.

At 24, the young paramedic brings a lot to the job.

Not only did he join the Masset Volunteer Fire Department at 18, two years ago Thorgeirson finished top of his class at the Kilgore College Fire Fighting Academy — an international firefighting school in Kilgore, Texas.

“Sam has done so much,” said Sylvan Daugert, who Thorgeirson replaced as chief of the Masset Volunteer Department on April 26.

“That training he did in Kilgore, he did on his own dime. He’s essentially donated that expertise to the community for the last several years.”

Thorgeirson said stepping into the chief’s role means extra responsibility during emergency calls, and some important desk work, too.

“The biggest thing we’re doing right now is putting everybody through a basic firefighting course,” he said, noting that the B.C. fire commissioner wants to make it a provincial standard.

At Kilgore, Thorgeirson got all the certifications he needed to teach the course himself.

The Masset fire department gets about 30 calls a year, including false alarms. That’s fairly low, said Thorgeirson, but with just eight active members, they could use some new recruits.

“We’d like to see that number double,” he said, adding that the station can handle up to 20 volunteers.

Thorgeirson started firefighting thanks to two high-school friends, Josh MacLeod and Brett Hart, who both beat him to it — they were 16 when they signed up as junior Masset firefighters.

“It took them a while to convince me,” he said, laughing. “But they did.”

To anyone thinking of joining, Thorgeirson said the best thing is to come and watch a 7 p.m. Tuesday practice at the fire hall. The crew normally meets once a week, every second week in summer.

“It’s not a dangerous job — we don’t put people in situations they’re not comfortable with,” said Thorgeirson.

“And we’ve got a good group of people, pretty diverse. We’re basically a little family.”

Daugert said the same goes for all fire departments on Haida Gwaii, noting how quick the Port Clements crew responded to the fire at Richardson Ranch a few weeks ago, and how both Port and Masset teamed up with Old Massett to contain a double house fire last August.

“Having everybody’s backs like that — it’s a nice reminder,” he said.

“But that’s Haida Gwaii.”