Laura KingFeatures Blogs Editor’s blog
Laura King reports on news that Oakville fire chief Richard Boyes has been let go by the town, and offers highlights and photos from the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services conference last weekend in Gander.
June 23, 2011
My BlackBerry has been in overdrive since yesterday with news that Richard Boyes is no longer the fire chief my hometown, Oakville, Ont. Boyes, past-president of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, chair of the Canadian Governmental Committee and an overwhelmingly good guy – I’ve never heard a negative word about him (which is unusual in the fire service!) – has been the chief in Oakville since May 2005. He was the chief in Sarnia, Ont., for seven years before that.
Boyes was instrumental as OAFC president in getting the province to adopt presumptive legislation for volunteer firefighters. And he pushed the association and its members to better understand how to work with government and advocate for their departments and their members.
As of this morning, there was still no press release from the town of Oakville explaining Boyes’ departure – the e-mails I received all said simply that Boyes is no longer the chief – or a job posting on the town’s website. Word is that council made the decision Monday night and Boyes was out on Tuesday. There is an item on Monday night’s council agenda that says: Personal [sic] matters about an identifiable individual, report from chief administrative officer, confidential.
I’ll leave it at that, for now.
I arrived home from the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Fire Services (NLAFS) conference in Gander late Sunday evening, a bit weary from the pace of presentations and educational sessions, music, business meetings, presentations, music, open forums, interviews, dinners, music, you get the drift . . . but thrilled to have spent four days with the amazing people of Newfoundland and Labrador (especially those from Fogo Island!).
The Ontario contingent – me, Fire Fighting in Canada columnists Mark van der Feyst and Tim Beckett (the chief in Kitchener, Ont., and president of the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs), and Tim’s wife Kathy – were Screeched-In Saturday after steak night at the local community centre, and survived (barely!) the ribbing, the spicy bologna and hard tack (Google it!), and the downing of the rum. Yes, there are photos and video but I’m not posting them here (what happens in Gander . . . )!
Meantime, the NLAFS has had a banner year, with increased funding for apparatus and a provincial tax credit for volunteer firefighters – in addition to the federal tax credit – thanks to the efforts of the NLAFS executive and president Vince MacKenzie, all of whom were acclaimed for another term.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale – the first premier to speak at a NLAFS conference since Brian Peckford (which wasn’t yesterday) – acknowledged in her speech at Sunday’s banquet the need for regionalization of the fire service to help with the province’s fiscal management. Regionalization is a hot-button topic across the country and will be the cover story of the August issue of Fire Fighting in Canada. It’s not for everyone, and all departments/regions can’t embrace regionalization, but stories of seven departments in one region all having aerials or hazmat teams or rope rescue squads that are used once or twice a year – or not at all – don’t sit well with politicians and fire-service leaders are starting to understand the need to dispense with that all-or-nothing mentality.
A highlight of the NLAFS conference – other than the fine hospitality and overwhelmingly friendly people (who can all sing and dance, by the way!) – was the relationship between Fire and Emergency Services (essentially the fire marshal’s office) and the provincial association. Fire Commissioner Fred Hollett and his staff sat on the stage at the Gander Arts and Culture Centre Saturday morning for a question-and-answer session that would be unheard of in some other jurisdictions. The strength of that relationship has clearly pushed Newfoundland and Labrador to the forefront of fire-service leadership and innovation and is a model for the rest of the country.
Lastly, I was thrilled to meet Monday morning with Brian Hicks, fire chief at Gander International airport. Hicks was a firefighter on Sept. 11, 2001, when airspace was closed and there was a mass diversion of planes to Gander. We’ll review the events of that day in Gander in our September issue of Fire Fighting in Canada.
Meantime, here are photos from the Newfoundland and Labrador conference.
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