Nanaimo Fire Rescue’s chief Karen Fry has been awarded the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal.
The medal, presented by Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog and city chief administrator Jake Rudolph at Monday’s city council meeting, is a federal award honouring members of Canada’s fire service who have completed 20 years of service, at least 10 years of which were served performing duties that involved potential risks.
Fry started her career in the fire service in Nanaimo in 1999 as a fire dispatcher and later took a position with the City of Surrey where she became a deputy fire chief. She returned to Nanaimo years later as deputy fire chief and chief of administration support services and acting fire chief before she was appointed as fire chief in 2017. She was the first woman to become fire chief in Nanaimo.
Fry is also the first vice-president of the B.C. Fire Chiefs’ Association and on Jan. 4 she will assume the position of chief of Vancouver Fire Rescue Services.
“For those of you who aren’t paying close attention, that makes her the chief of chiefs in British Columbia in the fire service,” Krog said. “It is the biggest department and it is an incredible honour for her and the city.”
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— Nanaimo Bulletin (@NanaimoBulletin) November 20, 2020
The medal was presented on behalf of the Governor General of Canada, Julie Payette.
“On a personal level, when this became official, we were all shedding tears of joy for our chief and tears of sadness that she’s leaving us, but let us not for a moment miss the historic importance of this moment,” Krog said.
Krog went on to say Fry, as a woman, was “not here as a token and she’s not going to Vancouver as a token. She’s going there because she knows her job. She does it well and she gained the full support of the firefighters who served under her.”
Fry said in an e-mail to the News Bulletin that it is an honour to receive recognition for service from the federal government and it was a “wonderful way to receive the award from the mayor and council before I leave for Vancouver.”
But she added that she is more proud of how much the fire service has changed in 20 years, becoming more diverse and providing more jobs and opportunities for people of all genders and ethnicities.
“Additionally, the role of the fire departments has changed to a more all-hazards approach where the vast variety of skills needed and training to maintain those skills takes a lot of time and effort,” Fry said. “When not responding to emergency incidents and training, firefighters now work to proactively reduce the impact of those emergencies through education, engagement and fire and life safety inspections.”