Robert Dickson from his days as a volunteer firefighter. (Submitted/Houston Today)

Robert Dickson from his days as a volunteer firefighter. (Submitted/Houston Today)

Former Houston fire chief publishes book about firefighting

A biography that tells tales of his 40 years of firefighting

A former fire chief of the Houston volunteer fire department, has published a book called Firestorm: The Journey of a Fireman across B.C.

Robert Dickson, now a long-time resident of Castlegar, has recently come out with a book on his adventures and times from his fire-fighting days from 1965 to 2000s. Dickson started as a volunteer fire-fighter in Prince Rupert and was in Houston from 1969 to 1973 before moving to Castlegar. He was elected as the fire chief from 1971 to 1973.

“All kinds of things happened at that time when I was in Houston. Most of the calls were ambulance calls. We had some fire calls. We did have a bombing in the shopping centre when I was there. We had floods,” he said.

Back then, BC ambulance was not around and the ambulance-related calls or medical calls would also be attended by the fire stations, he said.

“When there was a fire, each officer, myself included had a black phone on the wall which was just outside our bedroom. It didn’t have a dial, it had a red button. So when you talked on phone with somebody and realized it was a fire, you would press the red button in the centre of the phone and the siren on top of the fire hall would go off, to call people,” he said.

While firefighting was voluntary work, Dickson worked as a steam engineer for several companies and mills all through the province. But in his roughly 40 years of firefighting life, Dickson donned several hats from assistant fire chief to the fire marshal, a training officer to an auxiliary fire fighter.

Dickson’s new hat as an author, at the age of 76, has been long-time coming according to him.

“I am not a writer but I always wanted to write and I procrastinated like most people. In 2019, I finally got it down,” he said.

The book has several stories from his time as a fire-fighter as well as from his training role with the Justice Institute of B.C.

One of the several interesting anecdotes from Dickson’s book involves him and his crew in Houston building a fire truck.

At that time, the council had the money to buy a factory truck but the firemen talked about it and decided they needed a better second truck and so they built a better second truck, he said.

“When Houston got rid of it, Telkwa took it and then Telkwa used the truck for many years. When Telkwa was done with it, Topley took it. So there are pictures of the truck in the book there. It obviously was a pretty good truck. But they don’t do that anymore; nobody builds fire trucks in their fire halls anymore,” he said.

The book has other stories from Kootenays, Castlegar and his home town Prince Rupert as well.

Dickson is currently in the process of putting out another book which will be about hunting and fishing and his wife is now working on editing the book.

His first book, Firestorm, is available online on Amazon and directly from the author.

Priyanka Ketkar
Multimedia journalist

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