Each time Brian Kroes, the chief/manager of the Central Peace Fire and Rescue Department, recalls an outdoor fire that broke out on May 11, 2017 south of the Town of Spirit River, he thinks of it as a landmark event. “That was the defining moment that we became one fire department,” he said.
We sat down with him in a Q&A that touches on a range of topics, including his career as well as his challenges at – even his succession plan for – the department.
Q: Where did you get your start as a firefighter?
A: I started as a volunteer firefighter for Haldimand County, Ontario in 1993 while I was also doing my own business. I became a full-time firefighter in 2007. I had a very pro-active fire chief, and he mentored us very well. Seven years later, I had the opportunity to become a training officer, and 13 years into it I was asked if I would be interested in becoming a training officer for Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd (now known as Canadian Nuclear Laboratories Ltd), a premier federally owned research facility for nuclear science and technology. So, I moved up to Chalk River in Ontario and did that for just over nine years. And now, here I am – it’s been a good go.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
The people – I mean, the community has been very supportive of the idea behind the formation of the Central Peace Fire and Rescue. All three municipal governments – Municipal District of Spirit River No. 133, Town of Spirit River, and Village of Rycroft – have been fully behind the fire department. And the firefighters, who believe in what we’re doing and see the vision that we all have, are second to none. Without them, we wouldn’t have a fire department.
What was your most unforgettable moment in the job?
As a little background, we had three different fire departments, and we tried to combine them into one. We had a fire south of town in May 2017. At that moment, when we were fighting that fire, we became one team. Everybody was working together as one team. For me, that was the defining moment that we became one fire department. We’ve just been building ever since.
What does it mean to you to be the first chief of the Central Peace Fire and Rescue Department?
I’m very honoured. I was looking to move up in my career, and I’ve pretty much reached the top of my game at the Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. So, I’m just thankful and happy that this opportunity came. It’s just been great – I mean I love coming to work every day.
What are some of the challenges the fire department is facing right now?
Budget is always an issue with any organization, but, then again, the three municipalities have been very supportive. We’re looking to build a fire hall, but that’s further down the road. We can make do with what we have right now. We’re also looking to acquire medium rescue trucks. Other than that, there isn’t really any major challenge facing the fire department right now.
Whenever the day comes that you leave as fire chief, where do you want the department to be?
I want it to still be moving forward. I want the vision to continue. I’d like to see somebody in our department right now increase their education and certification so that they can move right into the job. I figure that if somebody has been with me this long they know the plan forward and the vision, whereas if we bring in somebody new that person may have a different vision, and we may end up losing everything we’ve built. My plan is to mentor somebody and to have a good succession plan in place.