After nearly 23 years serving as the District of Hope Volunteer Fire Department’s fire chief, Tom DeSorcy is hanging up his turnout gear.
DeSorcy is succeeded by Thomas Cameron who officially started his first day as fire chief on Jan. 20.
“It has been an honour and a privilege to serve my hometown as the fire chief,” DeSorcy said. “I want to express a message of gratitude to to the community and to the elected officials throughout the years. We’re in a good position with a dedicated group of individuals who work for the district and that includes obviously the firefighters who attend volunteer page calls. I think the ability to keep the fire fleet updated and maintain the replacement apparatus moving forward and putting funds away constantly and planning for the future, you know, that has to be commended.”
The news kicked off the first council meeting of 2023 (Jan. 9) when council officially acknowledged the appointment of Cameron as the district’s new fire chief. For DeSorcy, who started as a volunteer firefighter with the District in 1983 before being appointed as Hope’s first paid fire chief on April 1, 2000, the decision to retire was a bittersweet but welcomed change. Having proudly served the community for most of his life, he says he will miss working on a much grander scale with the “amazing men and women” who make up the fire department.
At the same time, DeSorcy says he and the fire department are “very happy that [Cameron] accepted the position” and that Cameron is “very qualified to take the position.” The now retired fire chief says he is ready for this next chapter in his life and looks forward to re-pursuing the projects he’s put on hold. He also looks forward to giving more time to the organizations he’s part of such as the BC Lung Association.
One pursuit DeSorcy looks forward to getting back into is broadcast; aside from working with the fire department, DeSorcy spent a few years working in radio and his voice could be heard on the show Country Coast to Coast in the 1990s, when he served as one of the hosts. He was also a DJ on the now defunct Hope Radio station before retiring to become fire chief. While he has continued being a “radio jockey” through fire training videos and through a podcast with the fire department, DeSorcy said he hopes to re-build and re-kindle this passion within the next few years.
Cameron’s succeeding DeSorcy was set in motion from the moment he was appointed as Hope’s deputy fire chief in 2021.
“It was kind of all in the design. I came in 15 months ago knowing already that the end goal was basically the succession plan to shadow under Tom for at least 12 months and then take over,” Cameron said. “I was mentally prepared for the change and stepping up into the role.”
Cameron, who was originally a volunteer firefighter, has been with the fire department for the past 15 years. In 2012 he became a training officer, a position he’s held until his transition to deputy fire chief. As the new fire chief, Cameron said he wants to make sure that the level of service the fire department provides not only continues but succeeds previous years. In particular, aside from training and obtaining better tools, Cameron said he hopes to find better ways to address, adapt to, and provide service towards the increasing number of calls that the fire department has been experiencing over the years.
In 2022, the fire department responded to 761 calls — a 95-call increase from 2021. Which is a far cry from the 300 calls a year that Cameron remembers when he first started volunteering.
“The biggest job of the fire chief in serving the community is also in serving the members,” he said. “Like the paid-on-call firefighters are really our biggest asset that we have. Those people give a lot. And I think whatever I can do to make their situation better, cause they have to juggle a lot of things in their life. I’m more of a servant-type leader to them, making sure they have tools and knowledge they need to do their job.”
For Cameron, he wants the people of Hope to know that this isn’t just a job for him. This is also a job that helps his community.
“I feel privileged. It’s an honour to serve the community in this capacity,” Cameron said. “I wasn’t born in Hope but I grew up [here]. I’ve been here 30 years in the community. And I understand some of the community challenges. I suppose my eyes have also opened up even more in this position, and in the management side. Basically, I’ve been around for a while, and I’ve got some skin in the game, as they say.”
Hope’s three previous fire departments, Kawkawa Lake, Flood/Laidlaw/Silver Creek and Hope officially joined together in 1999, to form the District of Hope department.The department serves the municipality and surrounding areas with round the clock emergency response and fire suppression services.
It includes a paid fire chief, a deputy chief and both volunteer and paid-on-call firefighters.