One of the benefits of being a firefighter is the close-knit family you become a part of as soon as you turn on that pager.
This week the local firefighting community lost a member of their family when Malahat Fire Chief Rob Patterson suddenly passed away on Monday, leaving big boots to fill.
“It’s a huge loss for the Malahat area and the B.C. Fire Service,” said Langford Fire Chief Bob Beckett, who has gotten to know Patterson over the years through their departments’ mutual aid agreements and the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia. “Just last week we were at a house fire with them,” Beckett said, adding Patterson’s death is a tragedy and came far too early.
But Patterson died doing what he loved to do and that was helping people. He was off duty Monday, riding an ATV to help someone who was stuck in the snow when he suffered from a medical emergency.
“This was him on his own time,” said Conrad Cowan, the Cowichan Valley Regional District public safety manager. “He was out helping someone.”
The exact cause of Patterson’s death had not been released at the time of this writing, but first responders from his own department answered the medical emergency call involving the chief.
Beckett added, “I’d like to recognize everyone that responded … and extend our thanks to B.C. paramedics who were on scene.”
Patterson, 53, dedicated more than 19 years of service to the Malahat department. While technically his boss, Cowan considered Patterson a friend and the two spent a lot of time working closely together.
Known as an advocate for road safety and fire prevention, Patterson was a vocal campaigner for increased safety measures along the Malahat portion of the Trans-Canada Highway.
“I always smiled when I heard Rob on the radio or television … I know he’s made a very positive impact on public safety in our community,” Cowan said, adding Patterson didn’t just make the roads safer for local residents but also those traveling through the community. “I believe his message for road safety will continue … We’re here to support his family and his legacy.”
Patterson was also on the executive board of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia and was a local assistant to the Fire Commissioners Office.
“(But) there’s a lot more behind Rob that will be truly missed,” Beckett said, adding he was always quick to recognize and thank his volunteers for their efforts.
Fighting fires and all of the other responsibilities that go along with it was truly a family affair at the Malahat Volunteer Fire Department. Patterson’s wife, Tanya, is deputy chief and both of their sons, Cameron and Nick, have served as volunteer firefighters. As the family and the department try to come to terms with their loss, Beckett noted local departments from the West Shore and the Cowichan Valley will be stepping up to help. “We’ve all offered whatever assistance we can.”
A GoFundMe page was set up by family friend Cody Tetley to help the Patterson family with a memorial and other related costs. Tetley wrote: “Rob Patterson was a father and husband. Most knew him as Chief of the Malahat Volunteer Fire Department. He has always been heavily involved in the hall and community. Always being there to lend a hand to anyone that needed it.”