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90-year-old B.C. firefighter has always been one to keep busy

Benny Hanson said his philosophy was ‘change jobs every four years’
Benny Hanson, who turned 90 on Feb. 1, 2022, is a pump operator with the Celista Fire Department. (Celista Fire Department image)

A North Shuswap firefighter is using some of the attention he’s received while celebrating his 90th birthday to promote his fire department.

The Celista Fire Department’s pump operator, Benny Hanson, has been with the department since 2004 and turned 90 on Feb. 1. He was first talked into volunteering by the department’s former fire chief while the pair were installing a fireplace.

Before he became a firefighter in his retirement, Hanson kept busy with careers in the communications, electronics, mechanics and engineering sectors. He always had an interest in such things, overhauling a tractor for the first time at the age of 17.

Hanson was the type to never stay put.

“I believe if you do one job for too long, you become robotized, you don’t think,” he said. “…My philosophy was change jobs every four years.”

Hanson spoke fondly of his former job with BC Tel, which he said was a challenge he loved. He’s also proud of communications work he did along the Alaska Highway, among many other jobs.

Hanson said he’s always been the kind of guy who hates to be wrong, always researching to get his facts right. That mindset has served him well as a firefighter and he knows the pumps he works with like the back of his hand.

Celista Fire Chief Roy Phillips has been with the department for 18 years, 17 of which have been alongside Hanson.

“Benny’s awesome, he’s so full of knowledge,” said Phillips. “He brings a lot to the table for us, a lot of training, a lot of insight.”

Phillips said firefighting is not just a young person’s game and there’s many different kinds of positions at a department.

“You don’t see a lot of firefighters at that age and we just don’t want to see him go. We want to keep him.”

Hanson said when it comes down to it, the best learning a pump operator can get is from experience. He’s happy to share his knowledge and encourages others to volunteer for the fire department if they’re interested.

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