Canadian Firefighter Magazine

Fire Hall Bulletin Online

Elena De Luigi   

News Employment and hiring deputy fire chiefs fire chiefs


Jan. 5, 2024, Canada – Here is a digital round-up of the latest fire chief promotions, appointments, retirements, and last alarms across Canada.

Promotions, appointments and retirements

Red Deer County in Alberta appointed Drayton Bussiere as its new fire chief. He started his career in 2004 as a paid-on-call firefighter and rose through the ranks to become the first full-time deputy fire chief for Lacombe County in 2015, and then was promoted to chief in 2017. He also co-leads the Central Region All Hazards Incident Management team.

Michael Kaye is the new fire chief for the Saanich Fire Department in British Columbia. Kaye has 25 years of service, including 18 years in leadership roles.

He started with Saanich Fire as a suppression firefighter in 1998. He held various positions throughout his career, including communications officer, assistant deputy chief, and most recently, deputy chief of operations. Outside the department, he has received the Queen Elizabeth Diamond Jubilee Medal for community service and leadership and has been a long-serving board member with Muscular Dystrophy Canada.

He will begin his new role on Feb. 1.

Also in B.C., Travis Whiting is leaving the Okanagan after nearly seven years at the helm of the Kelowna Fire Department to answer the call in the Yukon, taking over as chief of the Whitehorse Fire Department. He joined Kelowna in 2015 and moved up the ranks. He was promoted to fire chief in 2017.

Further east, Fire Chief Morgan Hackl is retiring from the Saskatoon Fire Department after 36 years of service. He started his career as a firefighter for the department and then moved up the ranks to captain. He later served as battalion chief and assistant chief before being promoted to his current role in 2015.

During his eight years as fire chief, Hackl’s leadership has had many successes. In September the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs recognized Hackl with the 2023 National Fire Chief of the Year Award for his work on community safety and well-being and for building partnerships.

Hackl’s final day of service is yet to be finalized but is expected to occur before the end of March.

In Ontario, Jason Pillon began his new role as fire chief on Dec. 18 with Essex Fire and Rescue Services. He is a third-generation firefighter who began his career with the department in 1997 as a volunteer. Throughout his career, Pillon has held the position of firefighter, captain, battalion chief, assistant deputy fire chief of prevention and education, deputy fire chief, and most recently acting fire chief.

Matt Pecar is the new fire chief in Wasauksing First Nation. He has more than a decade of fire fighting experience and has risen through the ranks to lieutenant, captain and now chief. He has also spent time as a fire prevention officer.

The Township of Rideau Lakes appointed Mark McFalls as its interim fire chief. With over 15 years in the fire service, McFalls has worked with Rideau Lakes since 2019 in the positions of deputy fire chief, fire consultant and training consultant. He also has previous experience with neighbouring municipalities in roles including assistant fire chief, assistant lieutenant, fire prevention officer and firefighter.

The current interim Fire Chief Andy Moore will be moving into the role of assistant fire chief of prevention and training at the Town of Perth. The search for a new fire chief for Rideau Lakes is currently underway, with the expectation that the position will be filled early this year.

Del Blakney is joining South Frontenac Fire and Rescue as the town’s new fire chief and director of emergency services this month. He has more than 30 years of experience with Kingston Fire and Rescue and has been a volunteer firefighter in South Frontenac for the past five years. He has certifications and experience in the Ontario Building Code, fire prevention, training, suppression techniques, hazardous material response and rescue operations and has extensive management experience in both the private and public sectors.

Blakney has also been active at the provincial level, serving as director for the Ontario Municipal Fire Prevention Officers Association for the past four years, working with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, Health Canada and over 230-member fire departments across Ontario to evaluate and direct the delivery of fire protection services in the province.

In Southwestern Ontario, Petrolia and Enniskillen Township promoted Rick Cousins to fire chief. He is taking over from Fire Chief Jay Arns who is retiring. Cousins has served for more than 35 years, starting his career in Brigden and moving to the fire department in Petrolia in 1990. In 2020, he was promoted to captain and then deputy chief in 2022. Cousins has also been with the OPP auxiliary for nearly 30 years.

Arns has a long history of fire service and community involvement. He became the township’s fire chief in 2018 and focused on projects such as replacing old equipment.

Further north, Thunder Bay Fire Chief Greg Hankkio is retiring after more than 32 years of service. He began his career as a firefighter in 1991. He was appointed to deputy fire chief in 2007 and became the acting chief of Thunder Bay Fire Rescue in October 2019. Hankkio was appointed permanently to the role in November 2020. His last day on the job will be Jan. 31.

The Town of Caledon hired Jeff Fairbarn as its new deputy fire chief. He has nearly 15 years of experience, having spent time with Innisfil, the Fire and Emergency Services Training Institute, Greater Toronto Airports Authority, Richmond Hill, and also a little over a year with Caledon Fire as captain and training officer, before leaving for the chief’s position in Adjala-Tosorontio.

Fairbarn assumed his new role as deputy chief on Dec. 18.

In Manitoba, Assistant Deputy Fire Chief Mike Penner is retiring. He has spent 23 years with the Steinbach Fire Department, starting his fire service career in his early 30s. Penner has been the department’s assistant deputy chief for a decade.

Last Alarm

Central York Fire Services’ Fire Chief Ian Laing died peacefully in his sleep on Nov. 30 at the age of 71. He had served as chief of the department since 2010. Laing began his life of service when he joined Mississauga Fire in 1975, where, upon his departure in 2009, he had risen through the ranks to assistant deputy chief. He dedicated 48 years to the fire service, first joining Mississauga Fire in 1975 and rising through the ranks to assistant deputy chief.

Laing left that department in 2009 to be the chief of Central York Fire Services. Chief Laing was known as a leader and mentor in his field, providing guidance, strength, and support as the regional fire coordinator for the region. He loved running rescues, auto extrication and participating in competitions. In his personal time, he enjoyed rides on his Harley motorcycle and going on road trips with his wife.

Etobicoke District (Ret.) Fire Chief John Gallagher passed away at the age of 80 on Dec. 14. He spent 35 years as district chief, and volunteered as a firefighter in Huntsville, Ont. for 10 years after he retired. He also enjoyed woodworking and carpentry in his spare time.

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