Fire Station 5 in Bonnyville officially has a new fire chief.
Craig Wenzel, a volunteer firefighter with the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority for 10 years, was voted into the position unanimously by his peers last Tuesday.
Since the retirement of chief Darryl Shyian in February 2019, it’s been leadership by committee at the Bonnyville station until the recent vote.
It’s something that Wenzel never quite envisioned when he first joined the service.
“It’s definitely nothing that I really aspired to do necessarily, other than just try and help out in the community where I could,” said Wenzel.
“The membership voted and it was unanimous for me to become their chief with a vote of confidence there, and I accept that honour and privilege and look forward to the new tasks at hand.
“I joined shortly after the hotel fire in Bonnyville where they were looking for a lot of volunteers, and like anywhere else with a volunteer fire service, they needed help. I answered the call and it’s been a rollercoaster ride ever since.”
‘Right personality and vision’
BRFA fire chief Jay Melvin put the question to Station Five in December to fill the chief role, noting that the committee style of leadership was meant to be a short-term fix after the retirement of both chief and deputy in 2019.
“Craig’s been here a long time, he actually started before I did in 2012. Craig is also a manager of a very successful business here in town Tubascope, understands the HR, understands the complexity of volunteering, not only on a professional stance, but also on the personal and what the impacts of those are, and I think he has the right personality and has a vision of where he wants to move this department into the future,” said Melvin.
“Having a station fire chief, having a leader who ultimately is the one making the decisions on which way the department is going, and a single point of contact is always good in dealing with the other station chiefs and dealing with the authority as a whole.”
Wenzel’s increased duties will largely be administrative, he said, with handling more paperwork and navigating the challenges the fire service has seen since the beginning of the pandemic.
There is also the big move of all emergency services just outside of town at the Kopala building planned for 2021 as well.
‘Sense of pride’
As always, the BRFA is actively recruiting new members to the service.
Wenzel said those interested should pursue it, as you get trained for free and become a Jack and Jill of all trades in responding to structure, wildland, vehicle, and industrial fires.
“It’s a sense of pride in the community just being able to help out people when they’re in need. It is a rollercoaster ride–far more ups than downs, fortunately.
“We are actively looking for volunteers. The great thing with that with the BRFA is that we train in-house. If you’re interested in a career in the fire service, this is a perfect opportunity to get started into that and get some experience with firefighting.”