The Lake Cowichan Volunteer Department recognized one of its longest serving members Monday.
“It’s something I’ve done my whole life for the community,” said David Janzen, who is marking his 31st years as a volunteer firefighter. When he turned 18 he joined the volunteer fire department in Youbou and served there for 13 years before moving to Lake Cowichan and joining its department.
As a child, Janzen said he had always wanted to be a career (full-time) firefighter.
“But I didn’t live in a city,” he said. “My twin brother and I both applied to work in Victoria but we didn’t get hired because they were hiring within the city, not from outside. That’s why we didn’t get hired.”
Like Janzen, his brother became a life-long volunteer firefighter, too, although he lives in Ontario.
“If it’s a goal you have, it’s worth going after it,” said Janzen.
He noted that while over the past 31 years he’s seen changes to nearly every aspect of firefighting — from trucks to protocols to cellphones, beepers and sirens — the camaraderie and bonds between firefighters has remained constant.
Fire chief Doug Knott echoed these sentiments and praised Janzen for his years of service.
“He’s a great guy. Very dedicated to medical training,” said Knott, noting that Janzen has had his level three industrial first aid certification (which is just one level below that of ambulance workers) for his entire time as a firefighter.
“He’s been involved in many medical emergencies for us.”
Knott said the Lake Cowichan Volunteer Fire Department has three members with 30-plus years experience, and many more who are around the 25-year mark.
“Who would do it if we didn’t have volunteers? It would be a huge cost to the town. We’ve got 30 volunteers here and three junior firefighters,” he said.
Knott estimated it would cost approximately $2 million annually to staff a full-time team of firefighters for a town the size of Lake Cowichan. The town currently administrates the department, which services Lake Cowichan as well as some parts of Areas I and F, in cooperation with the CVRD.
Like Janzen, Knott said anyone considering becoming a volunteer firefighter should give it a try.
“It’s a great experience. It’s a great social experience too. Volunteer fire departments have a social experience that binds them,” Knott said. “There’s also an atmosphere of giving. You’re helping out the community.”
Potential recruits can pick up an application form at the Town of Lake Cowichan municipal office or they can drop by the fire station on a Monday night, where the department’s weekly training takes place beginning at 6 p.m.