The year was 1985. The Edmonton Oilers had just won their second Stanley Cup. Brian Mulroney was prime minister and Back to the Future was the summer blockbuster. And in a small Alberta town, 25-year-old Dale Babuik decided to join the local fire department.
Fast forward to late 2020…he’s still there, but not for long.
Now 60, Babuik is one of two deputy chiefs on the Devon Fire Rescue Department along with fellow firefighting veteran Don Yez. But after 35 years of volunteer experience to his credit, Babuik has decided it’s time to step away.
“Part of it is physically, I know I am starting to get sore. And I could see we had the personnel coming up that are more than capable of maintaining what’s going on in this department.”
After his very first fire call where he was admittedly “nervous as heck,” Babuik has responded to thousands of emergencies in the Devon town limits and Parkland County.
From fully involved structure fires with dozens of firefighters to multi-vehicle highway collisions and medical emergencies of every kind. And yes, more than a few cats stranded high in a tree.
And like every single firefighter who has signed on since Devon Fire began in the 1950s, the responsibility to keep citizens and property safe comes with very little financial gain. Members are given quarterly honorariums for hours served. But that’s not why Babuik signed up, and stayed on, for so long.
“I’ve just enjoyed it. I’ve enjoyed the people. After a call too, the way people are so grateful. Even if they’ve lost their house or something, they’re grateful when we’ve gone in and saved whatever we can... from a jewelry box to pictures on the wall. Just the look on people faces who think they’ve lost everything.... just to see that you feel like you’ve done something to help them.”
A full time office worker in Edmonton, Babuik and the 30-member strong volunteer/paid on-call department respond to emergencies at all hours, 365 days a year.
“I really appreciate personally the contributions members have made to this community. In 35 years I’ve seen a lot of people come and go and the commitment of leaving birthday parties and suppers, middle of the night coming on calls, helping people that we don’t even know, because we want to. That is what really impresses me with this department.”
Even though a goodbye celebration will have to wait, Devon Fire Chief Rob Main says Babuik will always have a second home and family at the fire hall.
“Throughout my years in the department, Babuik has been a mentor and a friend. I have always been impressed with his ability to fight a fire and then spend time looking for the origin. The energy that he put into his work is impressive,” said Main.
Babuik will remain with the department to help with training and fire investigations for the next few months, but he will no longer respond to emergency calls. That means the pager that every firefighter keeps turned on at their homes 24 hours a day, will suddenly be quiet.
“The letters have been very emotional. I had one firefighter who said it was his childhood dream to become a member and I helped him do that, and I tell ya, that one tugged at the heartstrings. And also, the comments from senior members who’ve said how much they’ve learned from me and how much they appreciate it... it’s like wow, it’s amazing.”