The Courtenay Volunteer Fire Department lost a family member early Thursday when senior captain Tom Slater passed away at Victoria’s Royal Jubilee Hospital after a brief illness.
Slater was a respected, longtime member of the department, which he joined in January 1991. He moved up through the ranks as firefighter, driver, lieutenant and secretary-treasurer before his promotion to captain in 2009.
Slater also served with the B.C. Fire Training Officers Association, first as zone representative and then as treasurer.
He was known for his quiet leadership, and for his strong technical firefighting skills.
“He was very likable,” Courtenay Fire Chief Don Bardonnex said. “His mannerism around volunteers and his instructional techniques were incredible. Volunteers are completely different than staff. You get different people from different walks of life, and they learn different styles. He was very good with the volunteers.”
Retired fire chief Lawrence Burns was still working when Slater joined the department.
“I remember giving him the test to be a driver before I left,” Burns said, recalling Slater drove a tank truck for Dairyland.
He also recalls Slater had served a number of years as secretary-treasurer of the local fire society that looks after members.
“He was an outstanding fellow, and very dedicated.”
In his personal life, Slater won several championships for his age class in Ironman competitions.
A dedicated fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs, he also enjoyed riding his Harley Davidson.