Mike Collinge has been a firefighter in the South Cariboo for 40 years now, first with the Lone Butte Volunteer Fire Department and for the last decade 100 Mile Fire Rescue. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Mike Collinge has been a firefighter in the South Cariboo for 40 years now, first with the Lone Butte Volunteer Fire Department and for the last decade 100 Mile Fire Rescue. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)

Firefighter honoured for 40 years of service

Mike Collinge has served with both the Lone Butte and 100 Mile fire departments

When Mike Collinge first arrived in the South Cariboo in 1981 he had no plans to become a firefighter for the next four decades.

But curiosity and the urge to help the community led to just that for Collinge, 64, who received a federal medal and custom ladder last month, honouring his 40 years of service for the Lone Butte and 100 Mile fire departments.

“I’m proud to help out. We’re helping out people on one of their worst days and we do what we can. It’s just a part of community service,” Collinge said. “Now I’m paid-on-call but in the old days, I was 110 percent volunteer. We’d get T-Shirts, that was the big bonus, and chief Roger Hollander still gets us shirts and I joke that’s all I’m here for, this free T-Shirt.”

Back in the ‘80s, Collinge said a lot of the communities around 100 Mile House were starting up their own volunteer fire departments. As he’d always wanted to give firefighting a try, he decided to volunteer.

When he joined the Lone Butte Volunteer Fire Department he said they had three firetrucks, nine firefighters and no fire hall. Over the next year – thanks to lumber donations from the province – the members of the department built their own hall.

“I peeled the logs for that place. We did all of that,” Collinge recalled. “Through the government, we got a free set of logs and so we went out, the guy felled them and people trucked them in so we could peel them and help build the fire hall. It was quite interesting, I learned how to handsaw but it was a lot of work.”

READ MORE: Mike Collinge recognized for 30 years of service

In the early days, he said the department had no pagers for its members and instead had a list of phone numbers they called in the event of an emergency.

Collinge said that as he gained more experience he began stepping into officer roles first as captain, then deputy fire chief and eventually fire chief for his last seven years at Lone Butte. While he enjoyed looking after his team and taking care of things like acquiring supplies and equipment, as time went on the politics and desk work that came along with being chief began to wear on him.

It was during a drive in one of the department’s trucks for a routine inspection – a bit of a monotonous task, he admits – that Collinge had an epiphany.

“I was in one of the old trucks and I said ‘Oh heck, this is what I should be doing, this is what I want to do now. Just get in and drive the truck,’” Collinge said. “A little while later (I resigned).”

After leaving the Lone Butte department, Collinge said he moped around the house for about a week before his wife of 41 years Claudette told him to give Darrel Blades, 100 Mile Fire Rescue’s chief at the time, a call. Blades invited him over to the hall and that’s where he’s stayed as a firefighter ever since.

“Now I don’t have to deal with all the paperwork, I just get to drive the firetruck and run the pump,” Collinge said. “I let the young guys do most of the heavy lifting but I still help out here and there and do quite a bit for my age. I’m in pretty good shape for an old guy, I guess.”

Looking back on the last 40 years, Collinge said he never did firefighting for the glory or the awards. In fact, he said that when he first joined he decided to just give it five years and just kept on coming back. Still, he said he finds the services medals neat and has proudly hung them on the walls of his office.

While Collinge appreciates being recognized for his service, he feels more credit should go to the spouses of firefighters. When he received his award last month the first thing he did was call Claudette, thank her for her lifelong support and gift her a gold locket with 40 years engraved on it.

Collinge plans to keep on firefighting as long as he’s healthy. After pictures of his 40-year award were posted on Facebook, Collinge said Blades reached out to him and told him it was “time to go for 50 Mike!”

“I said might be in my walker by then,” Collinge laughed.



patrick.davies@100milefreepress.net

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Mike Collinge’s custom ladder, commissioned to recognize his 40 years of firefighting service, is currently mounted on the wall in his home office. (Photo submitted)

Mike Collinge’s custom ladder, commissioned to recognize his 40 years of firefighting service, is currently mounted on the wall in his home office. (Photo submitted)

Mike Collinge’s custom ladder, commissioned to recognize his 40 years of firefighting service, is currently mounted on the wall in his home office. (Photo submitted)

Mike Collinge’s custom ladder, commissioned to recognize his 40 years of firefighting service, is currently mounted on the wall in his home office. (Photo submitted)

At a ceremony recognizing 100 Mile Fire Rescue’s firefighters’ dedication and service to the community Mike Collinge (second from left) received a custom ladder and federal metal recognizing his 40 years of service from fire chief Roger Hollander. (Photo submitted)

At a ceremony recognizing 100 Mile Fire Rescue’s firefighters’ dedication and service to the community Mike Collinge (second from left) received a custom ladder and federal metal recognizing his 40 years of service from fire chief Roger Hollander. (Photo submitted)

When the Lone Butte Volunteer Fire Department was first founded in 1981 Mike Collinge (front row, second from left) was one of its original members and helped build the department’s fire hall. (Photo submitted)

When the Lone Butte Volunteer Fire Department was first founded in 1981 Mike Collinge (front row, second from left) was one of its original members and helped build the department’s fire hall. (Photo submitted)