Liz Wilson is the voice behind the gruff exterior of Fireman Frank and faithful companion of Sparky the fire dog but to most she’s simply the “fire lady.”
On any given day the Penticton Fire Department’s operations assistant can be found teaching kindergarten kids the stop, drop and roll technique or patiently helping seniors with safeguards to keep them in their own homes a little while longer.
Now after nine years of educating people and likely saving a few lives along the way, Wilson is leaving the position that has become her passion.
“It’s just sad, sad, sad to be going, I just can’t tell you how hard this is,” she said. “Really, I guess I’m fine. The problem is I really, really love what I do. I just have this incredibly wonderful heart-warming job.”
Because of a union seniority situation she is expected to be replaced by another city employee as of Dec. 31.
“What has made this so much fun is I’ll be walking to the bank at lunch in my uniform and people I don’t even know will come up to me and tell me things like I saw you on the news or read about you in the Western and because of that we changed the batteries in our smoke alarm,” she said.
Wilson recalls not knowing anything about fire prevention when she first applied for the job and “talking way too much” during the interview, but it turned out to be a perfect fit.
“It was a job the first day that I walked in the door, but ever since then…,” she said.
Over the years as her knowledge increased so did the quality of the city’s fire education program.
While much of the work has been her own, she is quick to acknowledge all of those around her
“It’s been such a pleasure to work in an environment that has that strong sense of togetherness, it’s that through thick or thin that really bonds people,” said Wilson. “We pull together when the going gets tough.”
Fire Chief Wayne Williams has also watched her grow into the professional she is now.
“Liz has been the hub that keeps the wheel together, the one who keeps it going around here,” said the chief. “We’re very proud of what Liz has been able to accomplish.”
According to Williams, while the position will be filled because of the move of dispatch services to Kelowna, exactly what it will entail is undetermined.
He stressed fire prevention will continue to be a department priority.
Two of her co-workers, Karen Henderson and Dawne Young, who are also good friends, believe Wilson will be greatly missed.
“She is one of those people who is like an angel on earth and I sincerely mean that,” said Henderson. “She is so wonderful and patient with people and there’s no question how much she has helped.”
Young agreed: “There’s no question she has made a difference in people’s lives. You walk down the street with her and everybody knows her.”
For Wilson, the next challenge will be to search for another job she believes in as much as the one she is leaving.
“I am spreading my arms, my heart and my mind wide open to figure out what other opportunities are out there,” she said. “But I guess I really still would like to be the fire lady.”