The District of West Kelowna is publicly thanking its retiring fire chief for his years of service as his official retirement date draws near, effective March 27.
Wayne Schnitzler has served as the area’s fire chief since before the municipality came into being in 2007. Prior to his appointment as the West Kelowna Fire Rescue Chief in 2008, he served as the fire chief for the former Westside Fire Protection District.
“We knew this day would come and are very pleased with the appointment of our new Fire Chief, Jason Brolund, but it is with a very heavy heart that I say goodbye to Chief Schnitzler,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.
“I know that all of council and, indeed, anyone who has ever met this great man, feels the same as I do.”
Findlater called Schnitzler a positive, outgoing, intelligent man who brought a wealth of experience to the district’s fire service, which also provides service for Westbank First Nation lands and unincorporated areas on the west side of Okanagan Lake.
“His professionalism and enthusiasm in his field earned him a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal, nominated by his peers and he is indeed a local celebrity,” added Findlater.
“But without a doubt, the thing I most want to thank Wayne for is his leadership and strength during our most trying times, our multiple emergency responses to forest fire threat. I have watched him bring together multiple agencies under one command with little turmoil or conflict on numerous occasions and I have stood at his side at countless press conferences and heard him deliver his calm, comforting messages to the public,” said Findlater.
“He will truly, truly be missed, and I dearly hope he will not disappear from public life completely.”
Before moving to the Okanagan, Schnitzler began his professional life in the fire service in 1979 as a paid on-call firefighter with the City of Surrey, becoming a full-time career firefighter in 1982.
He worked his way up through the ranks, becoming a captain of training before being hired by the Westside Fire Protection District.