Mark Watson was 16 years old when he first visited the Qualicum Beach Fire Department.
He fell in love with the shiny red fire trucks, their blaring sirens and looked up to the firefighters that operated them.
Seeing Watson’s eagerness to be in the fire hall, Rick John and Bob Patterson, volunteer firefighters, decided to mentor the special young man. And with the fire chief’s blessings, made Watson a regular member of the department.
“He is always asking ‘what can I do?’” said Patterson. “He started helping out at the canteen and also with the cooking. Then the chief let him sweep the base and clean windows. He would come on practice nights. He is truly a hard worker.”
Watson’s love of the work he does at the fire hall has not wavered. He continues to come out every week to help keep the fire hall clean and do other chores he’s assigned to. He is now one of the longest-serving volunteers at QBFD, along with Patterson, who is still actively serving after 33 years, and Brian Hale, who has been volunteering for 30 years as well.
“I just love being there,” said Watson. “I have so many friends there and they’re all nice to hang around with.”
Patterson said they took Watson under their wings because he was a smart young man, full of questions and was easy to work with.
“We just said: ‘Why not? Come on in’,” said Patterson. “That’s what the fire department is sort of about. I mean we’re all volunteers. He truly is nice to have around. He gets along with people well.”
Fire chief Marc Norris commended Watson’s dedication and considers him to be a shining example for others to follow.
“He is awesome,” said Norris. “He’s great friend and teammate at the Qualicum Beach Fire Department. He is very committed to what he’s doing there. He helps out whenever he can.”
Watson’s selfless devotion to help out over years has been recognized by the Town of Qualicum Beach in the past. To honour Watson dedication, the QBFD has an annual award named after him. It’s called the Mark Watson Spirit Award.
“He has such a good spirit in everything that he does,” Norris said. “He is a fantastic guy and a great example of the community living program that we have here in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area and how they were able to integrate people who maybe would normally not have this opportunity. He is not a frontline firefighter, but we can include him in almost anything else that we do. It’s good for everybody.”
Watson was recently presented a 30-year volunteer service pin that now hangs proudly on the fire department’s wall of honour.