mi-clive-sparks-whitehorse

Fire Chief Clive Sparks has retired after almost 40 years with the Whitehorse fire department. (CBC)

The fire chief in Whitehorse has retired after a long career with the city's fire department.

Clive Sparks, whose last name was the subject of many jokes, was a firefighter for nearly 40 years.

Sparks says he has seen many changes in his job over the years. He says making smoke detectors mandatory in homes has helped save many lives.

He says there have also been big improvements to protect firefighters.

"When I started out we were issued a pair of hip high rubber boots and a jacket and helmet and a pair of mitts and away you went, now it's, you know, the gear, the equipment we have now is much better, it protects the firefighter much more," Sparks says.

Sparks has memories of many of the big fires in Whitehorse.

There were the hangar fires at the Whitehorse Airport, a major fire in 1997 at the Yukon Energy hydro plant, and early in his career, in 1974, he helped fight the fire that destroyed the Casca and Whitehorse sternwheelers on the banks of the Yukon River.

"The sirens went off and everybody headed for the fire hall, of course as soon as you looked up there was the smoke and you knew it was something. A very sad day for everybody because they were two magnificent boats and shortly after we got there we knew we weren't going to save them, but you do the best you can," Sparks says.

Another veteran Whitehorse firefighter, Kevin Lyslo, is the new chief.