Blair Pinker

Nanaimo firefighters set up iconic tree

NANAIMO – Christmas tree on Sugarloaf Mountain shines like a beacon in Departure Bay neighbourhood.

The Christmas tree atop Sugarloaf Mountain is again shining out like a beacon in the Hammond Bay and Departure Bay Road area, lighting up the skyline.

While a real tree was originally used, the current incarnation is actually a 12-metre pole with a frame. Setting up the lights is the responsibility of the Nanaimo Professional Firefighters Local 905 union.

According to Jason Bradley, firefighter and the head organizer, it is a long-standing tradition dating back approximately to the 1960s, with the fire department at Departure Bay handling duties until 1997.

“In ’97, that station was closed. I was in that department at the time, it moved up to the Northfield volunteer fire department until 2003 when I got hired full time as a firefighter and I’ve sort of been taking it with me wherever I go,” said Bradley.

Wade Gaylard, who lends an electrical outlet on his property and power for the tree, said it adds to the festive atmosphere this time of year.

“It’s a huge aura when I look up the hill,” Gaylard said. “I can see it through my dining room window in the back and a glimpse out of my kitchen window, but it’s just kind of neat to have. It’s kind of like it belongs to the house at this time of the year.”

The Departure Bay Neighbourhood Association is also a supporter of the Christmas tree, providing a donation to the firefighters’ union. Karen Hovestad, the association’s past president, said the tree contributes to fellowship among neighbours.

“You could call it a symbol of connectivity because we’re all looking at it,” said Hovestad. “We, as a group, contribute to support it and it’s just an extension of the good neighbour feeling.”

The lights will stay up until early January.

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