Castlegar’s fire chief is familiar with burnt, soot-covered objects. But the Olympic torch is unlike any other flaming item Gerry Rempel has ever handled.
So valued is the torch that Rempel was asked to lend it for display at the Castlegar Community Complex, which he gladly agreed to.
“I ran out by South Slocan Junction on Highway 3A just beside of the junction at Castlegar towards Shoreacres,” said Rempel, recalling the events of Jan. 24.
“It was exciting. It really was. Especially once I got into it. I felt pretty honoured just being selected and then once the day came, I couldn’t sleep the night before. It was like Christmas Eve in a way. I was scared I would miss the alarm, so I didn’t sleep at all.”
“I got too excited. It was pretty neat actually,” he said.
Unlike other torchbearers, Rempel was handpicked to be a part of the torch relay.
“I received a call from the B.C. government secretary that I’d been selected because I was given a bravery award in 2004. I was selected on that basis,” Rempel explained.
In 2004, Rempel arrived before the fire trucks at a house fire, where he spotted a man in the upstairs bedroom window. “There was very heavy smoke and I went in,” he said. “I entered the place and got him out of there before the trucks arrived. It was Christmas Eve. So I guess for him it was a good Christmas present.”
Rempel has agreed to allow the Olympic torch he purchased be displayed at the Community Complex. “They wanted to do a display, so they asked if I would (loan the torch). You know a lot of people didn’t get a chance to see them, a real good close up anyway. So that’s kind of neat,” Rempel said.
“To me it’s all a pretty neat experience.”
Some Olympic memorabilia has appeared on Ebay for sale at high prices, but Rempel said he has no desire to sell his torch. “I don’t want to sell it. I bought it for a keepsake. I may donate it in the future at some point for display.”
Rempel was curious to see who would light the Olympic flame in Vancouver in the opening ceremonies when he was interviewed by the Castlegar News, Feb. 12.
“It’s a big deal, the Olympics, whether you agree with them or not. It is a huge deal for the country and our province. We may never see them here for a while,” he said.
Rempel is a long term resident of the Castlegar area.
“I actually grew up in Renata, just north of Castlegar. It was flooded when the Keenleyside Dam was built. Then we moved to Castlegar and I graduated from Stanley Humphries. Then I moved away for a couple years and came back,” said Rempel.
He currently serves as the fire chief for Castlegar, where he has worked and volunteered for years.