Fire prevention key for new chief

Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s new chief plans to keep building on the foundation laid down by his predecessor.

Craig Richardson, Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s former deputy chief of operations, said as chief he wants to continue to balance cost with the service provided by the fire department.

“The next level is to strike that balance between efficiency and effectiveness,” Richardson said. “We’re obviously going to be facing some funding concerns in the future and in order to achieve the best value for the customer at the end of the day, we’re going to have to look at and explore innovative techniques and add more value.”

Richardson said that will mean a stronger focus on prevention – keeping fires, injury incidents and other mishaps from happening in the first place.

Fire calls are down overall and Richardson said he will be looking for ways to further lower those statistics. Fewer mishaps mean lower operating costs, not to mention fewer deaths and injuries, he said.

Richardson, 46, was hired from Surrey Fire Services in 2005 for his skill set and outlook for Nanaimo’s long-term fire plan, which includes a combination of new fire stations, training and management. The plan, developed by former chief Ron Lambert, would evolve into an overall firefighting system based on information from published results of scientific studies and real-world evidence, combined with a business approach to providing fire and safety services.

Richardson, who holds a master’s degree in leadership and training from Royal Roads University, worked as a firefighter and trainer during a 15-year career with Surrey Fire Services where he taught everything from hazardous materials training and basic firefighting to fire officer and leadership programs. He also taught and was a consultant for fire departments across B.C. and internationally during that time.

“There were some busy times there, let me tell you,” Richardson said.

Nanaimo currently has 81 full-time firefighters and more than 50 on-call firefighters.

One of the things Richardson wants to do as chief is build on the capacity and strengths of the people in the department to help achieve the long-term goal of providing more effective service as demands for types of service continue to change.

“One of the thing I want to focus on in the future is the people in the department,” Richardson said. “With my experience ... I can say that the people we have in this department are some of the best I’ve worked with. They’re of the highest calibre and they have the potential to help us achieve those goals.”

There will also be the challenge of staffing and equipping new fire stations to improve response times to areas such as Jingle Pot, Hammond Bay and Duke Point. Richardson said the approach will be to determine what the primary risks are in those areas, do what can be done to reduce the risk and then develop a response force appropriate to the frequency and severity of risk types in those areas.

“If everybody sits together and works on the problem together and they all have the same information, the answers are pretty clear,” Richardson said. “That’s the model I want to use moving forward for decision making, inclusivity and things like that.”

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