Beyond Our Edges: Mark Hall – Doing What Needs to be Done for His Community
Mark Hall is a Civil Technologist at Urban Systems and would describe himself as a part of the “Get It Done” crew in our Kamloops office. He works largely on construction projects, focused on Design Tender and Administration. Mark is also very dedicated to his community, both through his carpentry craft, as well as being the Assistant Chief for the Pritchard Volunteer Fire Department. He shared what that experience has been like, and why giving back is so important.
How did you get involved with the volunteer fire services?
It’s funny but the main reason I got involved was because the Pritchard Fire Chief kept asking me to get involved. This was over 11 years ago, and I remember thinking I didn’t really have the time for it. What convinced me to start volunteering was the that it struck me if everyone said they didn’t have time to volunteer, then who would be there to help when it was needed. In Pritchard, the Fire Services are entirely volunteer driven, so it’s a service that needs to happen, because otherwise we have no protection if there is ever an emergency. I’ve been a part of the Pritchard Volunteer Fire Department now for over 11 years as part of a group of around 18-25 fellow volunteers, and worn many different hats, including being the Assistant Chief now for about 7 years.
What does being the Assistant Chief entail?
My job as mostly revolves around arranging, organizing and facilitating training for the members, working on the budgeting for the department and keeping on top of up off paperwork and documentation. I’m also one of the main points of communication between the Administrative Department and the Thomson Nicola Regional District (TNRD), so my role is a lot about keeping things organized.
But it is not all paperwork. As a part of my role, I also had the chance to purchase two fire trucks for the department, so far, so that’s a lot of fun. Especially since I get to drive around a big red fire truck once in a while.
How have the TNRD’s forest fires affected you and your community?
During the larger fires in 2003, our community was affected and we had to be evacuated for one and a half weeks. At the time, I was not yet a member of the Pritchard Volunteer FD. Having experienced the affects was a part of what compelled me to join the team. Then in 2009, when I was a member, we had a forest fire in our area, and my role was to provide structural fire protection for homes and buildings that had experienced fire damage. My immediate community got lucky, and the fire only came within about 0.5-km of our homes, but it was in danger for about a few days.
As a member of the Pritchard FD, when we are called to help with other area fires, our job is essentially to provide structural protection to the homes between the forest and the community. For last year’s fires, our team was out in the William’s Lake area for eleven day. We brought a tender (water tanker) and spent a lot of time filling water tanks (bladders) for the structural protections units. When we’re in those communities, there’s a command structure, and we are part of a support team, performing tasks to make the jobs of the local team easier. We were called back to the area for another three days, but had to return home because a fire started in Monty Lake, which is within 5-km of the Pritchard border. Luckily, forestry was able to hit that one fast enough to stop it from growing.
Personally, I feel strongly that this is just something you do. There’s a need, and you just do it. I was away from home, and my family, which is always hard, but my family is very supportive. You don’t ask whether or not it’s convenient for you, you just do what needs to get done.
Do you ever doubt your involvement?
No. Never. I’m always happy to be involved. The only struggle is again, the time commitment – it would be nice to have more balance between work, volunteering and home life, but giving to my community is just who I am so I just do it.
As if you’re not busy enough, you’re also quite a carpenter! Has that always been a passion?
I don’t know if I’m “quite the carpenter”, but I definitely make a lot of saw dust! Before I retrained to be a technologist, carpentry was what I did for work. Nowadays I do odd jobs for the office to make life easier for my colleagues, like shelves, foot rests, anything that makes the workplace a little more comfortable. I also make handcrafted items to be sold to raise money for the Urban Systems Foundation fundraising initiatives. I have fun building things, and other people get to enjoy them, and the Foundations gets to benefits from them. It’s my way of giving back.
After the fires this summer, I made a bunch of tops and sold them at the office, and donated half of the money to a local organization that was providing shelter and food for animals displaced by the fires, and the other half to the Red Cross to support the owners of the animals.
Do you take any time for yourself?
Carpentry is time I take for myself – it’s my escape, in a way. Lately, I’ve been really getting into using my lather; learning how to spin bowls, tops and other crafty things. So my time is basically me on the lathe turning something.
I’m also constructing a building for my wife’s business, as well as making things in in our home, so while it’s still work, it’s also an escape. In the end, I don’t really care about owning what I’ve built, and if I’m creating something someone else can enjoy, that feels pretty special.