Former Victoria Fire Department fire chief Richard Couch, who served for 30 years, including three years in the top job before retiring in 2006, passed away last week after a relatively brief battle with cancer. Photos courtesy City of Victoria

Late Victoria fire chief remembered for his quiet dedication, leadership

Richard “Rick” Couch the second former chief to pass from cancer in just over a year

Former Victoria Fire Department fire chief Richard “Rick” Couch is being remembered as a patient teacher with a quiet, confident leadership style and a dedication to his personal and firefighting families.

Couch passed away last week, roughly four months after being diagnosed with cancer. He joined the department in 1976 and retired in 2006 after spending three years as fire chief.

“He was a very caring and competent firefighter, certainly very focused on his family and on doing a good job,” said current Fire Chief Paul Bruce, who joined the VFD in 1993 and “rode the back of the Number 2 engine with Rick” out of the previous Superior and Oswego streets station for a few years. “He was very proud to be a firefighter, especially in Victoria where he grew up and spent his whole life.”

Couch’s death from cancer was the second such passing in just over a year of a former VFD fire chief. Couch’s successor, Doug Angrove, succumbed to the disease in May 2017.

Both deaths are considered to have come in the line of duty, Bruce said, and as such full honours are expected. The chief was planning to meet with Couch’s family early this week to help plan a service and memorial.

Couch was active and healthy, even in his retirement, regularly going to the gym and running, Bruce said. He was a member of the Victoria firefighters team that participated in the 2017 Ride to Conquer Cancer in honour of Angrove.

Couch’s passing leaves a sad note for the department, whose members have for years been active in working with provincial bodies on creating more stringent health and safety precautions for firefighters, and greater recognition of the connection between firefighting and long-term health risks.

“That’s one of the things we really pushed for with the union, we’ve established there’s a definite link between the toxins in the smoke and [the health damage they cause firefighters],” Bruce said.

Last year the province added a clause to the Firefighters Occupational Disease Regulation under the Workers Compensation Act to add presumptions for breast cancer, prostate cancer and multiple myeloma as occupational diseases for firefighters. As well, such practises as thoroughly cleaning firefighters’ turnout gear on the scene of a fire, and in some areas, the use of steam showers on site to do that job, have become more prevalent.

The new Victoria Fire Department public safety building on Johnson Street is expected to contain a specialized clean room where turnout gear can be sterilized of any toxins collected during active firefighting.

The Gala for Hope fundraiser this Friday (June 29) at the Crystal Garden will be raising money for the B.C. Cancer Foundation via the Ride to Conquer Cancer. For tickets or more information, email VFDGalaForHope@gmail.com.

Details of Couch’s service will be publicized once available.

editor@vicnews.com

Just Posted

‘Cartoony’ mushrooms popping up across Vancouver Island are highly poisonous

Fly Agaric mushrooms can cause hallucinations, gastrointestinal pain and death

Marble humpback sculpture wins Oak Bay’s ArtsAlive 2019 People’s Choice Award

Daniel Cline’s Harmony Humpbacks will be recommended for purchase

Access: Technology lags for people with vision, hearing impairments

Accessibility barriers addressed at the Pacific Training Centre for the Blind

Saanich police arrest man who spat on, pulled knife on man who refused to give him a cigarette

Police recommend the 18-year-old be charged for assault with a weapon

Chilean teen brings protest to Victoria streets

Chile’s peaceful protest unseen, says visiting student

WATCH: Artist explains inspiration behind new Oak Bay mural

Oak Bay’s Parade of Play mural might be the biggest in Greater Victoria

POLL: Are you satisfied with the result of the federal election?

The ballots have now been counted and the dust has settled on… Continue reading

Greater Victoria wanted list for the week of Oct. 22, 2019

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

85-year-old woman perishes in house fire in Cumberland Wednesday

Police and fire personnel were called to the scene of a fire… Continue reading

Beers on the job, smacking crotches: 10 police misconduct probes in B.C.

Recent report by the Office of the Police Complaint Commissioner highlights a number of investigations

Seizure of cannabis edibles, including mac-and-cheese, prompt warning from B.C. RCMP

Potato chips, cheesecake and candy infused with cannabis also seized back in August

B.C. parents sue city and province in 12-year-old daughter’s drowning at lake

Beverly Park drowned at Rotary Lake in Dawson Creek in August 2016

Island mom warning others as suspicious powder found in mail

“I was very uneasy … it could be coffee whitener or it could be something else in the bag.”

Most Read