Emergency crews on scene at Maple Ridge Golf Course Monday. (THE NEWS/files)

Lower Mainland arborist killed on golf course ran tree care business for 30-plus years

Bob Fitz-James died Monday on Maple Ridge Golf Course

A Maple Ridge arborist who cared about what he did and how he did it, and cared for those who worked for him, died in a workplace accident Monday evening.

Bob Fitz-James, 54, was killed after being crushed by a falling tree on the Maple Ridge Golf Course at about 5:30 p.m.

“Bob was the best,” said his wife, Leslie Anne Stevens.

He owned AC Tree Care and Removal in Maple Ridge.

“He owned that company for 30-plus years. He’s a local icon in a lot of ways. Everybody knew Bob,” she said.

Stevens said he looked out for his small crew, who he and his wife considered part of the family. That crew, and former employees have been supporting Stevens since the accident on Monday.

Even a City of Maple Ridge bylaws officer, with whom Fitz-James used to tangle, dropped by with flowers and tears, Stevens added.

“Being Bob, if he had to die … if he had to pick, that’s what he’d pick, I think,” Stevens said.

Recently, he had a young employee who he’d planned on keeping on for at least a year, then help him find a lifelong occupation. Another former employee said he did the same for him, Stevens said.

Usually, Fitz-James kept on a crew of between two and four employees.

“It’s a motley crew of misfits, but they’re our crew of misfits and we love them,” she said. “They have been here non-stop, since it happened.”

Long-time friends such as Csaba More were also dropping by.

“The outpouring from the community and the phone calls that I’m receiving are incredible,” she added.

Maple Ridge emergency crews were called to the golf course, located on Golf Lane off 207th Street, around 5:30 p.m., for a report of a fallen tree.

The incident took place at the end of the first fairway, said Maple Ridge fire chief Howard Exner.

“He was working on the tree and somehow, it basically fell on him.”

Trish Knight Chernecki of WorkSafeBC said investigators will try to identify what happened and how to prevent such an incident in the future.

An inspection report could be released next week. However, reports are only released if it’s believed they won’t compromise the investigation.

A separate investigation report could take months.

The employer must also do its own investigation, she added.

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