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Fire Chief torches Castlegar

Castlegar fire chief Gerry Rempel will be blazing a trail Sunday morning as he carries the Olympic torch along one leg of its local journey – and he's promised to quell his natural instinct to extinuish the fire.


“This is one fire I'll let burn,” he assured The Source.


Rempel said he didn't even apply to carry the torch – and was so stunned by the honour that he doubted its veracity.


“I received a phone call from the B.C. government secretariat saying that I had been selected, relating to a bravery award that I had received a few years ago” Rempel said. “The lady (who called) was really nice and seemed serious and everything, but afterward I thought, 'Was that real?' ... so I didn't say anything to anyone.”


An email from the Olympic torch relay committee requesting Rempel confirm his participation, though, convinced him this was the real deal.


He'll be taking a 300-metre section of Highway 3A, just past Thrums toward Nelson, at roughly 7:30 a.m. Those wishing to cheer him on are welcome – there' be a big orange sign designating his runner number, OTR087-014.
“It's an honour to be part of something this big; to represent our community; to represent Canada in this run,” he said. Rempel even bought the torch he'll be carrying (as runners are entitled to do) ... and there's a pool to see how long he'll last before he just has to put out the flame.


Meanwhile, in a charming serendipity of athleticism, the Castlegar Complex's own Audrey Maxwell Polovnikoff will be running a leg along Columbia Avenue, from the Mohawk through to the plaza anchored by Extra Foods.


“Doing my small bit to support our athletes is a true honour,” she said. “I have a real respect for our athletes, who give their heart and sould and sacrifice so much, to reach that level of athleticism. They're wonderful role models ...they give our children an example to strive for.”


She said there's also a more private motivation that will keep her legs pumping while holding the torch aloft.


“On a personal level, I'm doing it in honour of my father, Peter Maxwell, who was a marathon runner and who recently passed away,” she said.


Another exciting runner to watch for is Tom Biln – no stranger to the Olympics, this guy.


Biln was part of an eight-man rowing crew that won Canada's only medal, the silver, in the 1960 Olympics in Rome.


Now, 50 years later, the 70-year-old retired pharmacy owner will once again be representing his country and her top athletes as he carries the torch from the Legion to City Hall at roughly 8:10 a.m.


“It's quite exciting. It's a very emotional time ...brings back a lot of memories,” he said. “Just the fact that I'm part of the Olympics again is amazing ... and whenever you're doing something like this, you're representing your country, and that's one of the greatest things you can do.”


These are just three of the many locals who will share the honour of carrying the Olympic flame through our valley, and resident are encouraged to line the streets and cheer them on (the route can be viewed at http://www.vancouver2010.com/more-2010-information/olympic-torch-relay/olympic-torch-relay-interactive-map/).


Then, of course, will come the city celebrations, slated to start at the Complex at 11 a.m. Bring your swimsuit for the free swim, test your own athleticism in one the many contests, play Rock Band, sample global cuisine, enter the draw to win tickets to the Olympic Grand Slolem event.


For more information, contact city hall at 250-365-7227 or the Complex at 250-365-3386, or click on the Olympic ad right here in The Source for a full listing of events.