The Village of Midway’s volunteer fire chief is retiring after decades of unpaid service in the community and surrounding area.
“I’m 66,” explained chief Walt Osellame, adding that he’d spent most of his life volunteering at fire and rescue services in the West Kootenays.
“It’s been the quite the ride.”
Chief Oselleme said he never drew a pay check, and neither did the rest of the department.
The Midway Fire Department has been crewed and led by local volunteers stretching before he began his tenure in 1990.
In that time, the department grew from 10 volunteers and one truck to 40 volunteers and a fleet of nine units.
Meanwhile, he served for 24 years as Principal Osellame at Boundary Central Secondary Secondary.
The outgoing chief extended “a huge thank you to all the members who came out to practice and serve in all weather conditions” throughout his volunteer career.
In that time, he stressed that, “no one’s taken a nickel” for their service.
“We do it to help. That’s what fire service is about.”
New chief to be paid
While Osellame said he’d seen to his duties as fire chief mostly “off the corner of his desk,” he said he’d advised Midway’s Chief Administrative Officer, Penny Feist, to put offer his successor a paid contract.
In 30 years, Osellame said the job has gotten to be too big, the responsibilities too many, for a non-professional.
Midway Council agreed, and has since posted the job to the village website.
The posting closes Friday, Sept. 25, according to the website.
Chief remembers pivotal moments over volunteer career
Osellame said he was proud that none of his fire fighters or rescuers were hurt on his watch.
That includes the great Rock Creek fire of 2015, when he said his entire staff was called out to rescue 200 people trapped by the flames at the Kettle River campground on Highway 33.
“It was a pretty horrific fire — one I’ll never forget.”
Chief Osellame officially retires Saturday, Oct. 31.