Fighting fires is a family affair for Vancouver Fire and Rescue
When a three-alarm fire broke out at 1443 West Broadway in the early morning hours on Sunday, Battalion Chief Dale Parno didn’t know his 29-year-old son Matt would also be on the call — but he knew it was a possibility.
The Parnos, father and son, have fought more than one fire together over the years but Dale, who is retiring in a couple of months, said all firefighters are family when they are on the job.
“It’s not the first time I’ve had to send my son into harm’s way, said Parno. “But I send other people’s sons and daughters into harm’s way too. It’s a responsibility that weighs very heavily, but we make it as safe as possible.”
The blaze, possibly caused by an electrical fault, started in the basement of Eat Your Cake, a food delivery service. The fire was contained without spreading to surrounding buildings, and is not considered suspicious, said Assistant Fire Chief Sheldon Young, who snapped a photo of the father-son team after the incident.
Fire is a great equalizer, and Young said the parental bond doesn’t affect decision-making about how resources are deployed — you don’t get to sit on the sidelines just because your Dad is giving the commands.
“We’re professionals and we wouldn’t send anyone into a situation or dangerous environment we wouldn’t send our own children into,” said Young.
Young said it’s not unusual for family to work together — Vancouver Fire and Rescue has brothers and sisters, fathers and sons, but this time was special with the elder Parno retiring this summer.
“I never think about it as my son when I’m sending him in,” said Parno. “All firefighters are the same, doesn’t matter what last name is on the back of their coat.”
Because fire crews live and work together, they always feel like family said Parno, who chose the profession in part because he knew it would allow him to be actively involved in his children’s’ lives as they grew up — but the firefighters’ life builds another kind of family, he said. “You stay in the job for life and it’s like living in a family situation at the firehall,” said Parno, whose daughter is a professional firefighter in Squamish.
At the end of the day, said Parno, it’s a feel-good job.
“It’s the worst day of someone’s life, but you know that you are going to make it better.”