After fighting countless fires and training countless recruits, Fire Rescue Deputy Chief Steve Virgint has decided to call it a career on July 31.
Virgint said it was an emotional decision for him, but the time felt right.
"I'm getting older. I got my magic number. I think it's time for some young guys to take it on," he said.
Virgint joined the Squamish fire department approximately 33 years ago, when it was just "a small group of guys that got together," he said.
"We knew each other, it was kind of a neighbourhood thing, and that's what we did."There were only 10 men to each of the three halls back then. Today the total number of volunteers and career firefighters exceeds 60. And Virgint helped train a majority of them.
"He was pretty instrumental in the training of our members," said Fire Chief Ray Saurette. "Through his years he fostered a lot of the training that the guys did and was instrumental in getting our training sites certified through the JIBC, Justice Institute of B.C., which is a fire academy and that's how our training site became certified after we had it all constructed."
The community has been a big supporter of the department over the years, said Virgint. And now he's hoping to pay it back. He said he'll be getting more active in the Lions Club, which has held fundraisers for the department along with the Rotary Club. He's also joined the classic car club.
Virgint's dedication to organizing the annual Guns & Hoses hockey charity game gave the community a glimpse into his volunteering nature.
"He's been a huge heart to the department," said Saurette.
That heart is put on display when Virgint talks about the men he's worked with over the years.
"It's an emotional thing," he said. "I thought I was dedicated, but I was getting paid during the day for most of my career, and the other guys were coming out day and night as volunteers. The dedication of the people I was working with was beyond anything you can compare it to. Just a great group of guys."
Despite sadness at leaving the camaraderie, the upshot is obvious.
"I'm looking forward to not getting up in the middle of the night anymore," he said, adding with a laugh: "My wife said many times she thought that I was married to the fire department."