When Tom Plensky called Deep Bay Fire Chief George Lenz to the front of the room Thursday night, he had a lot to say, but his essential message was simple.
“You are one of our heroes,” he said.
The comment came as Plensky presented Lenz with the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal at the Deep Bay Improvement District annual general meeting at the Vancouver Island University Shellfish Research Station.
The medal was presented on behalf of the Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston and was first created in 1985 to honour fire service members who have given 20 years of service, at least 10 of which were in the performance of duties involving potential risk.
Since coming on board with the fire department 20 years ago, Lenz has seen many volunteers come and go and it’s not surprising. Firefighting is a challenging job, both physically and mentally, with call-outs at all hours of the day or night.
Most volunteers last only four or five years, but Lenz stayed on and has held officer roles for over 10 years. He is still often the first person at the hall for a call-out.
Even before he was made chief, Lenze was an advocate for the department and the community. He has been an active recruiter of new members, and even now, as chief, often calls on new residents to encourage involvement.
The experience and continuity that Lenz brings to the department has proven invaluable. Not only does he know all the fire systems inside and out, he also knows the community and all the different or difficult access areas. His expertise can save critical minutes when time matters.
Lenz is highly respected by the members of his department. When the previous, much loved Fire Chief passed away unexpectedly in 2010, George stepped in and guided his team through the difficult mourning period. His personal commitment to his team and the department resulted in continuous exemplary fire and rescue service to the community.
As he accepted the award Thursday night, Lenz also had a very simple message.
“I don’t know which side these things are supposed to go, but I’m pinning it next to my heart,” he said.