Vancouver is getting a new fire chief.
His name is Darrell Reid, who will leave his post as CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario to replace John McKearney, who retires June 30 after 37 years as a firefighter. McKearney was chief for eight years.
“I’m confident that as chief, Darrell will make great progress in ensuring the safety of our residents by bringing the city’s emergency response and preparedness to the next level,” said Mayor Gregor Robertson in a news release issued Tuesday to announce the hiring of Reid.
In addition to becoming the new chief, Reid will be responsible for emergency management, a field in which he has plenty of experience. Prior to joining the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario, Reid served as a deputy chief with Toronto Fire Services and as fire chief and director of emergency management Strathcona county emergency services in Alberta.
In 2011, the Alberta provincial government appointed Reid as incident commander for the 2011 Slave Lake fires and the 2013 High River flood.
Reid said in the city’s release that he was honoured to head Vancouver Fire and Rescue, and excited to “join a team with a tradition of excellence protecting a world-class city, and I look forward to helping find progressive and innovative solutions to the challenges we face.”
Some of those challenges include responding to the opioid overdose crisis, which has taxed many firefighters responding to an unprecedented number of overdose calls. The department responded to 169 overdose calls in the week of April 17, a 29 per cent increase from the previous week.
Robert Weeks, president of the Vancouver Firefighters Union (IAFF Local 18), said the union was “optimistic” and looked forward to a “positive and lasting relationship” with Reid, whose first day on the job is June 19.
“We believe with Darrell as the fire chief, we have a great opportunity to continue to build upon the recent positive labour relations strides that have benefited both members and the department,” said Weeks in the city’s release.
Reid has a master’s of business administration from the University of Alberta and obtained a graduate certificate in community preparedness and disaster management from the University of North Carolina. He also completed the executive fire officer program with the U.S. National Fire Academy.
In addition to his background has a firefighter-paramedic, Reid is the founder of a non-profit corporation dedicated to providing training and equipment to firefighters in developing countries. He also founded Canada’s largest licensed private training academy for firefighters and paramedics.