Will Sprogis hired as next GVFD Fire Chief

Derek Kilbourn

Sounder News

Wednesday, November 27 2019

Will Sprogis has been chosen as the next Fire Chief for the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department.

Sandra Rudischer, Chair of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District, announced the decision on Tuesday, November 19. The final three candidates for the position were informed of the decision on the preceding day. The Board has not said publicly who the other two candidates were.

In an email to the Sounder, Rudischer wrote, “After much deliberation, the hiring committee reached consensus on one candidate. The Board unanimously supported the recommendation of the hiring committee. Will Sprogis has been awarded the Fire Chief position.”

Sprogis will officially start as Fire Chief on December 1.

Rick Jackson, who has been the Fire Chief since 1994, will retire on the same day.

Passing of the helmet - Will Sprogis (left) has been hired by the Trustees of the Gabriola Fire Protection Improvement District to take over from Rick Jackson as Gabriola Fire Chief. Derek Kilbourn photo

Sprogis, born and raised on Gabriola Island, has been a member of the Gabriola Volunteer Fire Department (GVFD) for 16 years, and has been a GVFD officer for over 10 years.

He said being a firefighter began when his dad, Bill, was in the department.

“Seeing that level of service for the community was really inspiring...that added level of commitment that the members of the community were putting in, and the dedication put in by the membership.”

As to why he would apply to be Fire Chief, Sprogis said it was “growing up here, being someone who grew up here, someone who had high respect and wanting to give back.”

Along with the GVFD, Sprogis has, over the years, been involved in working with the Parks and Recreation programs, and has taught sailing and coached soccer.

And it’s the next step for his own development.

“Learning and always keeping current is the big thing for me. I like to attend the training conferences and local meets that I can get to.”

Not having a nearby fire department to call on for mutual aid means establishing relationships with outside agencies, like the Royal Canadian Marine Search and Rescue; the Ham Radio/Emergency Radio organizations; and the BC Forestry Service.

Sprogis said, “We have great working relationships with all those agencies. We’re one of the first fire departments in BC to have emergency radio and a backup system on our command truck.”

As for how it feels to be taking over for Jackson, Sprogis said, “It’s a pleasure, it’s nice to take over.

“Rick’s done a great job in following Albert Reed’s long-term plan, it’s an honour to take on that role.

“Training is the number one priority - we maintain a standard to a full service department.”

Part of Reed’s long-term plan was getting the Superior Tanker Shuttle accreditation from the Fire Underwriters’ Survey of Canada.

Due to this accreditation, all residential properties on Gabriola receive insurance equivalent to homes which have fire hydrant service.

The GVFD was the first department west of Ontario to receive accreditation for commercial properties as well.

Sprogis said there are still ways to improve that rating, including improving the service level for the south end.

“We’ve met the needs and training - we need to practice more before we go [get accreditation] for it.

“If the Trustees decide that they want to go for it, we’ll test down there.”

He’d also like to see more emergency planning - working with all the stakeholders who are involved in emergency services for Gabriola.

This past year, the GVFD held a FireSmart workshop, and an open house is being planned for January to have the various stakeholders available for presenting to the public.

In terms of Sprogis being chosen as the next chief, Jackson said from the outset that he was strongly convinced “that because of the unique department that we are, and the way we do things, I’ve always felt strongly the candidate would come from in house.

“I think when it was short-listed to in-house people, I felt the department had already won.

“When Will was selected, I thought that was an excellent outcome - all the candidates were excellent candidates, I think of all three of them and the department as my own kids.

Jackson said, “Will, since early on, he wasn’t a big talker, but he was an observer. He’d point things out on calls or in the department. That told me he was astute, a clever fellow. Apparently the Trustees have come to the same conclusion - so I’m happy about that.

I would really like to thank the other candidates for coming forward. I’m happy being able to finally to retire, I feel the department is in a good situation, I’m comfortable to be walking away, I’m a happy guy.”

As for being selected from among the final candidates, Sprogis said, “It goes back to the work I’ve put in - it feels like a good accomplishment to see the hours I’ve put in to get this position. A big thanks to the membership, Chief Jackson, Trustees and the support of the community.”