‘My challenge is to get it right’: Meet Yellowknife’s new fire chief

John Fredericks speaks to reporters at city hall on Friday. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/Moose FM)
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After 25 years fighting fires across Canada, Yellowknife’s new fire chief John Fredericks says he’s hoping to finish his career here.

Fredericks has big shoes to fill, taking the place of former fire chief Darcy Hernblad who retired in late October following a 31-year career.

Related: Yellowknife’s fire chief retires after over 30 years of firefighting

The new fire chief took over the position on December 5. Now 10 days into the job, he says he’s prepared to see where he can take the fire department moving forward.

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“They have a great history of fire emergency services in this town, some tragic and a lot of positive things,” Fredericks said.

“(Coming here) was an opportunity to come to work for the city and build the fire service with the vision for the future.”

Fredericks started his career in his home province of Nova Scotia. His work has taken him across the country, including Nunavut where he was assistant to the fire marshal in the early 2000s.

It was during that time that he took a liking to Yellowknife.

“When I worked in the fire marshal’s office in Nunavut, I traveled through Yellowknife quite often,” he said. “I always liked the North, I liked the city here. The fire service has a great tradition here.”

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Ready for a challenge

The 57-year-old comes to the territory’s capital from Kirkland Lake, Ontario, where he was chief of their fire department for four years.

Kirkland Lake has a population of just under 8,500, less than half the size of Yellowknife.

By comparison, the city’s fire hall experiences a much higher call volume, and in fact has been an issue in the city as of late.

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But that’s what attracted Fredericks to the position.

“One of the reasons I wanted to come here is because the call volume is high,” he explained.

“I’ve never been in a real busy busy department from that aspect. I’ve always been dealing with ‘What can I do to keep people motivated to keep them busy’, so this is a little bit different.”

Despite the difference, Fredericks insists he’s not worried about handling that higher call volume.

“That’s no issue,” he says. “I know we have challenges here, but those challenges are no different than any other fire department in Canada. My challenge is to get it right.”

Fredericks says he doesn’t yet have a game plan for the department, but has been meeting with personnel and reviewing the Fire Division Master Plan [pdf] to see where improvements need to be made.

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