Penticton's fire chief of eight years is leaving the city for a new role with the City of Kelowna.
The City of Penticton announced his departure on Thursday.
“On behalf of the City of Penticton, I want to say thank-you to Chief Larry Watkinson for his incredible time in leading the Penticton Fire Department where he has not only maintained the high standards that existed, but worked diligently to raise them,” Donny van Dyk, the City’s chief administrative officer said in the release.
“During his eight years as chief, Larry has become an integral part of Penticton. He recognized the need for the PFD to be part of the fabric of the community and worked tirelessly as an advocate for the department.”
Watkinson spent years not only working for Penticton but taking his canine companion and trained disaster response dog, Sammy, to other missions with the Burnaby Urban Search and Rescue team.
He was one of the hundreds of professional, military and other responders who travelled to Canada’s destroyed east coast last fall after the post-tropical storm Fiona in Sydney, N.S. to help with recovery efforts.
In August of 2021, he lent his skills to the fight against the White Rock Lake wildfire burning between Vernon and Kelowna.
Watkinson will often lead to charge running structural protection at major wildfires, a passion of his as the organizer for several years running of a B.C.-wide wildfire training symposium in the South Okanagan.
He would also often lend his time to community and charity events, wanting to be present with the Penticton.
Watkinson has accepted a new position as deputy fire chief with Kelowna's fire department starting June 26.
“Calm under pressure, Larry was a reassuring figure when emergencies struck and provided residents with confidence in our City’s abilities to meet the challenges that arose. He will also be remembered for the ultimate water fights put on by the PFD as a way to beat the heat,” van Dyk added.
“It’s never easy seeing good people move on but this is the right decision for Larry and his family. A testament to his leadership is that he leaves the PFD in a stronger position for whomever succeeds him in the chief’s chair.”
The City of Penticton said they will begin the search for a new chief and Deputy Fire Chief Rob Trousdell will lead the department until a new appointment is made.
“In his role as deputy chief, Rob has been a key part of the leadership team at PFD and we know the department is in capable hands during this transition,” van Dyk said.