(The latest in a series of stories about long-serving volunteer firefighters.)
David Perkinson figures he’s in his 23rd year as a volunteer firefighter, although if he joined in 1999 it must be his 24th. Either way, it’s a pretty long time!
“I enjoy it!” he says.
Perkinson started with the Lesser Slave Lake Regional Fire Services (possibly before it was called that) when he was 19 years old. His dad John was a member, and he says he was interested for that reason. He says his parents both talked about a community being more than just individuals going about their personal business. Public service was an important part of the story, and he picked up on that.
From a young recruit in 1999, Perkinson is now one of the captains, taking his turn as duty officer and being the guy in charge at motor vehicle accident scenes, or fires or whatever. He’s been in that management role since 2014.
It keeps Perkinson busy, but apparently not busy enough, because for the past couple of decades or so he’s also been an active volunteer with the local army cadet program, not to mention being a husband and father of four.
“It keeps me pretty busy,” he says.
Not only that, he’s been helping out with S.L.I.P., the group that maintains outdoor skating rinks in Slave Lake in the winter months.
Until recently, Perkinson was making his living as a mechanic, but he’s on disability now and figures he won’t go back to the trade.
Born in New Zealand, Perkinson came with his family to Boyle Alberta in 1988, where John Perkinson had gotten a job at a service station. Six years later they moved to Slave Lake. John had been on the volunteer department in Boyle, Alberta and joined the Slave Lake fire department almost as soon as he arrived.
“I’ve been around firefighting my whole life,” Perkinson says
Asked for a highlight or two from his firefighting career, Perkinson first comes up with a story about a kid who had his foot stuck somehow in his bicycle. The fire department got him unstuck, but at the cost of ruining his bike.
“We, as a fire department, decided to buy him a new bike,” he says.
Another highlight is the creation of the John Perkinson Memorial Scholarship, a project of the Firefighters Society that Perkinson had a key role in.
“It’s to keep his legacy going,” he says.
As for other memorable ‘calls,’ Perkinson remembers one where the crew en route to a motor vehicle incident on a slippery highway ended up in the ditch themselves! He calls it “a hard stop,” but nobody was badly hurt, and they managed to get to the scene and their job. Sadly, one of the crash victims did not survive.
He also recalls being with the crew that dealt with a bad crash west of Slave Lake, where a mother and three children were killed.
“It was one of the worst ones I can remember,” he says.
Perkinson plans to continue with volunteer firefighting for as long as he can.
“Give it a try!” he advises, to anyone interested. “You always show up in a time of need and make things a lot better for people.”
by Joe McWilliams