Travelling through Colrado posing next to the independence pass sign. (Photo submitted/Peter Bizarro)

Retired deputy fire chief hits the open road

In Our Valley: Peter Bizarro

Peter Bizarro, 57, has recently retired as the deputy fire chief of the Kitimat Fire Department. He took a moment to appreciate his years with the department and his time in Kitimat.

Bizarro’s parents moved to Kitimat from Azores, an Atlantic archipelago that is part of Portugal, after father gotten a job with Alcan.

Bizarro was born and raised in Kitimat and attended Kildala Elementary before moving on to Mount Elizabeth Secondary School.

While at high school he spent some time working and found himself travelling to and from Terrace every week.

“Ironically enough as I sit in this building, one of my early jobs, while I was in high school, was delivering papers for the Northern Sentinel every week to Terrace,” Bizarro said.

Every week he loaded papers into a van before heading to Terrace to deliver the paper to residents. This job was the first that would start a long working career for Bizarro before he got a bigger opportunity in Kitimat.

“I was working construction at the time and my dad approached me and said they were looking for someone to start at Alcan,” said Bizarro.

He then attended an interview with Alcan and following the interview officially be a full-time employee with the company at the age of 19. Bizarro began work doing operations and working in pot rooms, ultimately working with his father.

He worked on the pot lines one and two and moved around the department even becoming a crane operator. Bizarro made another big move courtesy of the job.

“I ended up purchasing a house at the age of 19, that said a lot about the security of the community and the security of the employment,” said Bizarro.

He ended up marrying his high school sweetheart, Barbara Bizarro and they had two children. After some time at Alcan Bizarro saw an opportunity in plant protection, which is their security department. The department ultimately opened a gateway into emergency services, which included firefighting, industrial firefighting and first aid work.

“Sometimes it takes you a little bit of time to find what your true passions are in life and that was the opportunity that opened that door for me,” said Bizarro.

He spent eight years with the department at Alcan where he obtained industrial firefighter training. Another major shift was on the horizon for Bizarro as he took an interest in paramedics and first aid, something that he wanted to focus more on.

He believes in order to become good at what you do you need experience, doing calls and being part of the municipal fire department gave him the opportunity.

“I knew I wouldn’t get that volume in industry but I knew I would get that volume working for the municipality, that was the driving force for me, I wanted to improve my skill sets and I wanted calls,” said Bizarro.

In Kitimat, the fire department also acts as the ambulance service working as both firefighters and paramedics.

Bizarro’s wife Barbara also made a big career switch around the same time moving from insurance into nursing ultimately becoming a licensed practical nurse.

Bizarro applied to the Kitimat Fire Department and be one of the last to be accepted without prior paramedics training. Officially in his first year with the department, Bizarro would get exactly what he wanted and spent a very busy year learning on the job.

“My first year within the Kitimat fire department, I had done more medical calls than a career of a first aider in the industry, lots of calls, lots of great experience and lots of great training,” said Bizarro.

“Along with that, to me to really become good and proficient at what you do, you need experiences, whether it be small experiences or big experiences, that’s what builds your skill sets.”

As he continued to work and gain valuable experience Bizarro realized there was one constant challenge to his new career.

“Working as a paramedic in our community has been challenging, you’re going to calls and going to homes where you know the people before you even get there,” said Bizarro.

This challenge did not deter him as Bizarro enjoyed being able to give back to his community. There were many times throughout his career that he looks back on fondly, and of course, being in Kitimat working during a snowstorm was one that quickly came to mind. As a snowmaggedon type event hit Kitimat it left him and his colleagues unable to get out using their vehicles, but with some help from the community, they managed to still do their jobs.

“We persevered through it, with the help of the snowmobile club we were able to access patients, whether it be wellness checks or actual medical emergencies, I was there working for 36 hours,” said Bizarro.

He spent 12 years as a firefighter when an opportunity arose for him to potentially become the deputy fire chief. Ultimately, Bizarro moved into the position and spent 10 years there as Kitimat’s deputy fire chief enjoying not having to work evenings.

Bizarro enjoyed the work as he never knew what to expect going to work daily, something that he is proud to have been a part of is five successful automated external defibrillator protocols (AED). These five events were administered during cardiac arrest calls and the five people were able to leave the hospital.

Throughout his time working as a paramedic and firefighter Bizarro also found a new passion — motorcycling. In 2008 this newfound hobby was on display during a very long trip.

“Me and my wife did a one month trip through the United States on our Harley, we went from Kitimat and went as far as the four corners in New Mexico, it was really quite special,” said Bizarro.

As motorcyclists know, you’re battling the elements all the way through. Whether it be rain, snow or sunshine you don’t have the typical protective shell that a car provides. Bizarro says the elements were by far the worst when they were travelling through Moab, where it wasn’t rain or snow that bothered the riders. Rather it was a sweltering 43 C heat that made the drive a little more miserable as Bizarro described driving through the heat like driving through a blow dryer.

Bizarro said the trip was enjoyable as the Harley is quite comfortable to ride, and he describes it as a flying couch. The days were also quite long throughout the trip doing about 10 to 12 hours on the road and most of the days they would end up camping.

Bizarro has no plans to leave Kitimat but is interested in spending some time in Portugal, hoping to make it his annual winter destination.

Now that he is retired, in the near future hopefully in June, he plans to ride his recently purchased adventure bike, which is a dual-purpose bike to Alaska. Bizarro looks back fondly on his time working with the Kitimat Fire Department.

“To me, the highlight truly was when you go to work at the Kitimat Fire Department and I share this with the recruits, you never know what’s gonna happen and to me that’s so exciting,” said Bizarro.

He will continue to enjoy the outdoors and spend some of his time on the local Kitimat rivers fishing and exploring nature.