Described by one of his longest friends — and fellow fire chief — as a man who “would pay it forward; he would help people expecting nothing in return,” former Cumberland fire Chief Ken McClure passed away Saturday at home in Golden, B.C. where he served as chief.
He was one day shy of his 56th birthday, and went into cardiac arrest at his home with his wife Gaetane by his side.
Comox fire Chief Gord Schreiner, who knew McClure since Grade 5 at Arden Elementary, said he connected with McClure immediately.
“We became best buddies. I moved here from PEI and he was the kid who embraced me right away.”
When he moved to Comox, Schreiner said the two kept in touch, and they reunited in high school, both attending G.P. Vanier.
McClure joined the Cumberland Fire Department in 1985 following a departure from the Valley, and became a paramedic. In 2004, McClure was made chief, and his career saw him working closely with Schreiner at the Comox Fire Training Centre.
“He did a lot of officer training here, and served as an instructor several times,” he explained. “His passion was auto extrication. He went around the province teaching the skills.”
Similar to Schreiner, McClure would “pay it forward” and knew it was important to give back to other departments and people.
“He was really involved with youth programs and youth camps. He would always roll up his sleeves and do what you asked him to do,” he recalled.
He also credits his colleague with finalizing the mutual aid agreement with the various fire departments throughout the Comox Valley during his time as the chair of the Comox Valley Fire Chiefs Association in 2008/2009 — a role he took over from Schreiner.
“It was a very important job to try and bring the Valley together … he was instrumental in doing that.”
Schreiner said the two would talk a couple of times a month sharing information and lesson plans. They last saw each other in June in Victoria for a conference, and he recalls McClure “smiling, laughing and enjoying life.”
“He cared about his community; he was never in (the job) for himself, he always wanted to help out. He left a big hole because he was very well-loved in his fire department.”
Schreiner, along with other firefighters from the Comox Valley, will be travelling to Golden Friday for a service for McClure, and is also planning a service in the Comox Valley for the chief in early October.