Each and every day, firefighters risk their lives to save victims of fire. These dedicated men and women contend with the dangers of structural collapses, heat stress, exposure to carbon monoxide and other gases, and a host of other serious hazards. Yet, they continue to serve their communities with courage, dedication and commitment. Captain Mark Collins didn’t start off intending to be a firefighter, it just happened. Yet, the nonchalant way in which it happened appears almost preordained.
Mark was born and for the most part raised in jolly ole’ England. He was 14 when he immigrated to Canada and while you can’t detect any hint of an accent when speaking to him, he does have the ability to revert back to his original accent with a blink of an eye. It’s both amazing and entertaining. “Mom’s family had moved over here and after we came over for a visit, my folks decided that this is where we had to be. I’ve never been back. My brother and I stayed here, but my sister prefers it over there and she’s gone back,” he said.
After arriving in Chilliwack, his father began working in the agricultural industry and after a time decided to purchase a pig farm on Prest Road. Mark attended high school in Sardis and had no particular aspirations where his future career was concerned.
“After graduating, I did odd jobs here and there. I worked at Yarrow Woodworking and this is when my firefighting career began. While I was there, I was approached by Hank Martens, who was one of the chiefs of the Yarrow Brigade, telling me that they were in need of firefighters. My buddy, Don Bailey and I decided to try it out and soon we began our careers as on-call firefighters. Don eventually dropped off but I continued. I was 19 at the time and two years later, I finally decided what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” he smiled.
Mark continued as an on-call firefighter and began working towards a career as a full-time firefighter. “I was hired by the Base; I was trained by the military as a civilian member. I worked there for five years then transferred here,” he said. Here, refers to Hall 1, where Mark is a company officer in charge of C Platoon. “There are four platoons with six members on each platoon. Although I oversee both Engines, I’m in charge of Engine 1. There are 4 members on Engine 1 and two members on Engine 4. On the bigger calls, we send out both engines while on a smaller call, we send out one engine,” he explained methodically.
Fighting fires is a dangerous and stressful job. While acknowledging this as a fact, Mark concedes that he continues to find his career a challenge but an enjoyable one. “I do enjoy my profession. The biggest challenge that I have is ensuring the safety of civilians and my crew. When people are faced with undue stress, following orders becomes a bit more difficult,” he admitted frankly. Then, there’s always the paperwork, of course.
Mark, like his father, is quite the handyman and when he has some down time, he enjoys renovating his home. “I also love boating. I can’t wait for summer so that I can chug around the water in Harrison,” he said rather enthusiastically.