Cowichan News Leader and Pictorial
Daughter follows in dad's fiery boot steps

By Mike Damour - Cowichan News Leader and Pictorial

Published: November 28, 2008 8:00 AM

0 Comments Take your daughter to work day has an entirely different meaning for one Mill Bay family.

Terry Culp and his daughter Lian are among just a handful of father-daughter firefighting teams in the country.

Terry is the chief of the Mill Bay volunteer squad and said he was thrilled to have Lian join the team.

“Whether she was in the department or not I have always been proud of the stuff she's done, but I am proud as a dad because I see her getting into the firefighting,” he said.

In his former life Terry, who’s been a firefighter for the past 20 or so years, was a paramedic instructor who’d travel up and down the island for the job.

“Lian was probably about 11 at the time and she would come along and be the patient (for demonstrations),” he said.

“By the time she was 13 or 14 she had been to so many classes she would be there instructing.”

Lian said the fact her dad is a firefighter was a huge factor in her decision to become one too.

“I mean I grew up around it and have been around it all my life,” she said.

Added Terry: “(The decision) was gradual and I never pressured her about joining. I guess she had always been involved in the volunteering, but as far what she wanted to do with her life I didn’t know because she was a teenager and changed her mind 100 times.”

However, anyone looking in from the outside could be forgiven for assuming Lian would follow in her dad’s boot steps.

“I was about 11 when I started being involved in fire prevention and safety with the fire safety house, taking kids through since I was 11,” said Lian.

Being the same age as the other kids was a huge benefit in getting the safety message across.

“There was a fireman there, but having a kid the same age I think the other kids responded better.”

But there are no advantages to being a firefighter when your dad’s the chief of the hall, she said.

“I guess the main drawback is that people think I do get special treatment, which isn't the case.”

Her dad agrees.

“Sometimes Lian and I have to be make sure about perceived favouritism,” he said.

“It's never been an issue, but sometimes it’s in the back of your mind and you want to make sure there is no perceived favouritism.”

To that end, Culp said he treats his daughter as one of the guys.

“You can call me a mother hen to everyone, I worry about everyone's safety,” he said.

“She's just one of the guys on the scene and usually, if I’m in a command position, she reports to her truck officer.”

While more and more women across the country are becoming firefighters, they are still grossly outnumbered in the male-to-female ratio and that’s something Lian thought about before she joined the Mill Bay hall.

“I think it might be difficult for someone who hadn't been around it and was just jumping into it,” the university student said.

“But I’d been around the fire hall since I was five when the hall was still a boys’ club, and I saw what it was like when I was growing up so I knew what to expect.”

The surprise is Lian said she feel more accepted by her fellow firefighters than by some in the community.

“You are always going to run into like snide comments from the public,” said the five-foot four-inch, 135-pound firefighter.

“You always get comments about your size, about being too small and I don't think the public really knows how many jobs there are in the fire department.”

Her dad agreed and said the top people are always put on the jobs they handle the best.

“Everyone does their job to the best of their ability,” said Culp.

“If you're someone that can carry the 250 guy out, then that's the job you do, it doesn’t matter if you're a paramedic, or a pump operator, then that's what you do.”

And Lian is very good at what she does, he said, recalling a call early in his daughter’s career.

“I remember it was a cardiac arrest call and I’d seen her practicing for years, but never in a life and death situation like that.

“I remember standing back and thinking, ‘You’re in the real world now,” he said.

“And yeah, I was proud. Damn proud.”

I know Chief Culp quite well, and the Mill Bay boyz are a good bunch. Good luck guys!