Final bell sounds for Naramata fire chief

Grahame Baker is hanging up his hose after 16 years of service as the fire chief with the Naramata Volunteer Fire Department.

Former chief Grahame Baker of the Naramata Volunteer Fire Department crowns his replacement Wil McCutcheon with the official chief’s helmet at the station this week. Baker is stepping down from the position he held for 16 of the last 24 years he served with the department.

Former chief Grahame Baker of the Naramata Volunteer Fire Department crowns his replacement Wil McCutcheon with the official chief’s helmet at the station this week. Baker is stepping down from the position he held for 16 of the last 24 years he served with the department.

Grahame Baker is hanging up his hose after 16 years of service as the fire chief with the Naramata Volunteer Fire Department.

“When I look back over the years, I would do it all over again,” said Baker, who has been a volunteer firefighter in Naramata for 24 years. “It will be nice not having to get up at 2 a.m. because the phone is ringing though. There have been good moments and bad moments but at the end of the day I think I did a good job. But I didn’t do it alone, there has been a lot of good people helping.”

It was by chance that Baker ended up in Naramata. Working for the U.K. government as a mechanic, he decided he wanted to come to Canada and live in B.C.

“It was amazing the way we did it. We got a pin, waved it around and it landed on Penticton actually. We did an economic profile of jobs in the area — Vernon, Kelowna, Penticton — and we moved to Penticton because I got a job at Penticton Honda right away as I worked for Honda previously. We lived there for two weeks and moved out to Naramata right away and it all went from there,” said Baker.

The fire chief said 2003 marked a year that tested the volunteer department. The Okanagan Mountain fire was ravaging its way across from Kelowna.

“That fire was heading towards Naramata and we were on that around the clock for eight weeks. It was a huge organized effort, we had fire departments from B.C. and Alberta working under our command,” Baker recalled. “But we met lots of people and made some good friends out of it.”

The Naramata Volunteer Fire Department became a regional district service in 1995. Since that time Baker has successfully occupied the position of fire chief of the department. During his time he helped bring in new technologies and equipment and pushed for the new fire hall location.

After Baker decided to retire, the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen undertook a formal hiring competition. On Thursday, the regional district board of directors appointed Wil McCutcheon as the new fire chief for the Naramata Volunteer Fire Department. McCutcheon has been volunteering with the Naramata department for the past six years, before that he was on-call with the Abbotsford Auxiliary. With experience with air search and rescue, St. John’s Ambulance, as a private pilot using radio communication and holding a rescue diving ticket he was a perfect fit for the fire chief job.

McCutcheon said he would like to open up the fire hall to the public more and make public education a priority.

“One of the big trends I have noticed in all fire departments is they are not so much just firefighting as they are about prevention. Houses are being built quite differently these days and are more likely to stand up to fire. Our role is still with firefighting but I like the whole idea about educating the public with an emphasis on health and rescue,” said McCutcheon.

He wants to open the doors of the fire hall and allow the public to see what actually goes into fighting fires and the people behind it.

“A lot of people don’t know what goes on. You bring them to the hall and they see all the trucks and equipment and they get a feel for what the volunteers do and the hall isn’t that unknown question mark on the hill. I want to get away from the stereotypes that fire halls have and bring more of a family atmosphere to things.”

McCutcheon said very often the volunteers are single dads and moms who would have to bring their kids on a call with them.

“If this person wants to get on the truck they can’t up and leave. I want to look into how we can facilitate for these people a little bit more. I am an out-of-the-box thinker and can be a bit creative,” said McCutcheon.

 

Just Posted

Osoyoos mayor Sue McKortoff shows a drip line used efficiently in a local vineyard. Most of the Okanagan is experiencing tinder dry conditions. (YouTube/Screenshot)
Extremely dry spring brings water shortage worries to the South Okanagan

The Okanagan has the least amount of water available per person and highest water usage in Canada

The proposed design of the five-storey building on Front Street. (City of Penticton)
5-storeys still too tall for Penticton’s downtown, votes city council

Vote against new development leaves one councillor questioning validity of city’s zoning restrictions

Spiritleaf, Penticton’s first cannabis retailer opened in 2019. (Western News File)
Penticton expands cannabis store hours to match liquor stores

Cannabis stores are now allowed to operate until 11 p.m. in Penticton

(Jennifer Smith/Black Press file photo)
Poll: Should Penticton hold Canada Day celebrations this year?

The spotlight on residential schools has caused the rethinking of Canada Day

A committee held its first meeting on June 9 to consider opionions for incorporation of the community of Okanagan Falls. At present, Okanagan Falls is the largest unincorporated community within the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen. (Contributed)
Study begins for Okanagan Falls incorporation

Committee held first meeting on June 9

Maxwell Johnson is seen in Bella Bella, B.C., in an undated photo. The Indigenous man from British Columbia has filed complaints with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal and the Canadian Human Rights Commission after he and his granddaughter were handcuffed when they tried to open a bank account. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Heiltsuk Nation, Damien Gillis, *MANDATORY CREDIT*
VIDEO: Chiefs join human rights case of Indigenous man handcuffed by police in B.C. bank

Maxwell Johnson said he wants change, not just words, from Vancouver police

A concept rendering showing a map of the proposed spa resort. (Contributed)
Ambitious spa resort proposed for West Kelowna hilltop

The Shannon View Drive hilltop was originally slated for a residential project

Employees at Playtime Casino wait outside while firefighters inspect the building after a small storage room fire on Wednesday, June 16, 2021 (Amandalina Letterio/Capital News).
Small fire at Kelowna’s Playtime Casino as staff preps to re-open

Fire ignited in the storage room, but the staff were able to put it out

A fire deliberately set in a washroom facility in Vernon’s transit terminal could cost the city around $25,000 to repair. (City of Vernon)
Vandalism forces Vernon to close public washrooms early

Despite changes made by city, vandalism on the rise at transit loop loos

Fire trucks parked near the McEachern Tobacco Barn on Wednesday, June 16.(Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Fire at heritage tobacco barn in Kelowna doused by residents

McEachern Tobacco Barn is on the city’s heritage register

For more than a year, Rene Doyharcabal and a small group of neighbours in Langley’s Brookswood neighbourhood have been going out every evening to show support for first responders by honking horns and banging pots and drums. Now, a neighbour has filed a noise complaint. (Langley Advance Times file)
Noise complaint filed against nightly show of support for health care workers in B.C. city

Langley Township contacted group to advise of complaint, but no immediate action is expected

A nurse prepares a shot of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Yukon Convention Centre in Whitehorse on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mike Thomas
Vancouver couple pleads guilty to breaking Yukon COVID rules, travelling for vaccine

Chief Judge Michael Cozens agreed with a joint sentencing submission,

An inmate in solitary confinement given lunch on Tuesday, May 10, 2016. THE CANADIAN/Lars Hagberg
22-hour cap on solitary confinement for youth in custody still too long: B.C. lawyer

Jennifer Metcalfe was horrified to hear a youth had spent a total of 78 straight days in isolation

Most Read