For Pete Panesar, It’s all about giving back to the community that has given so much to him.
On Oct. 24, Panesar was awarded the first key to the city in Fort St. James for 25 years of voluntary service with the Fort St. James Fire Department.
The department held a dinner in recognition of those who have serviced and dedicated their time in helping make a difference in the community. Panesar received a certificate for 25 years of service but he had no idea of what was to follow.
Mayor Rob MacDougall presented Panesar with the key. “I was shocked,” Panesar said. It was such a surprise. I knew I would receive an award for 25 years of service, but this I did not expect.”
The first time recipient of the key was overjoyed and emotional his wife said.
Panesar, 61, has been married 38 years. He was born in India and raised in England. “One day my dad said that I should go and have a holiday, so off I went.”
Panesar resided in Vancouver for a while and then ended up in Vanderhoof. He met his wife, moved to Fort St. James and landed a job at Conifex Sawmill in 1978 where he still works today.
One girl and two boys later, the couple decided that Fort St. James would be their new home. “I was done moving around. My wife was happy, we had made new friends, this was our home,” Panesar said.
And what a warm and welcoming home the Panesars have made. Pictures of children and grandchildren fill their walls as well as photos of Panesar working at the fire department through the years.
His certificates along with the key to the city are on display as Panesar smiles and his wife looks on with pride.
“It was tough at first. When the kids were younger it was hard, but we managed. The kids are so proud of him, I’m so proud of him. We’ve come so far,” she said.
“I joined the fire department because I wanted to help people,” Panesar says. The old fire chief invited me to join and here I am 25 years later.”
Through the years, Panesar has seen many changes within the department. He helped raise money and rebuild the fire hall training centre which is the only one of its kind in the Northern Interior according to Panesar.
He also helped with the addition to the fire hall as well as fundraising for a new truck. “I’ve been involved with lots of fundraising. “Hearts are so big here. Everyone looks after each other,” Panesar said.
With all of his training certificates and various awards, there is still another that was awarded to Panesar along with his key to the city.
From the Governor General of Canada, Panesar received the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal in recognition of 20 years of loyal exemplary service to the public security in Canada.
“I’m so surprised to receive this. I am proud with what I’ve achieved and I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to help my community,” he said.
Panesar is pleased with the fire department’s recent developments and its focus being that on safety. “The department has changed so much and I’m so proud to be a part of it today. We’ve become so close. We’re like a family,” Panesar said.
With four grandchildren and one on the way, Panesar is showing no signs of stopping yet.“I love this close knit community. I’m here if needed. My radio is right here. I’m not going anywhere.”