On February 1, Kirk Hughes, was welcomed to the County of Vermilion River (CVR) as their new Director of Protective Services. CVR council carried a motion on February 9, to officially appoint him as a fire guardian.
“I’m very happy to be here in the County of Vermilion River,” said Hughes.
“Anywhere I’ve served the goal is always to improve the overall community safety.”
Hughes is a 22-year veteran of the Canadian Forces, saying he joined the military when he was 16, the fire department when he was 17, and the RCMP a couple years later.
He replaces outgoing director Orest Popil who retired from the position.
Hughes comes to the CVR from the M.D. of Taber where he served as the Director of Community Safety for the past four years. There, he initiated fire and police programs, recruited members, and then acquired some facilities. For the fire service, he was able to create a regional initiative by coordinating seven stand alone departments.
Originally from Ontario, he also spent six years in the North West Territories. His military background with the Canadian Rangers was put to use as well as his fire and police experience, with him often wearing all three hats.
“As a child I read a lot of Pierre Berton books about the gold rush and the Klondike and the north was always on my list of places to travel to, so when I had an opportunity to get posted there I took it,” said Hughes.
He lived in three different northern communities including Deline, which has a population of less than 300 people and you have to fly in or out.
Hughes was happy to now see a position open up in municipal government with the opportunity to incorporate all three of his passions. He noted that Vermilion is more northern than his previous post and said it is a natural progression to be in this position.
In order to serve a number of protective roles, he said, “Dedication is probably number one. When you have to balance off three of those positions, you certainly have to be good at time management. In addition, you definitely need to have an understanding family or spouse, or both.”
Hughes is looking forward to when his wife and three children are able to join him in the CVR. He is currently staying in Vermilion while they look for a new home, and they plan to integrate into the community by joining things like hockey, soccer and baseball. So far with COVID, and -40 temperatures, he just hasn’t had much of a chance to interact so far.
In the meantime, he’s been visiting area fire stations and meeting some of the local chiefs and volunteer staff. Going forward he will host Zoom meetings to touch base with all of them, as well as RCMP and peace officers. He is also hoping to develop a strategic plan in the next couple months.
“Plans pre-exist, however, they are living documents and need to be revised or see if the contact lists are still current or the suppliers are still available,” said Hughes.
He will be taking part in an upcoming collaboration with the Kitscoty RCMP Detachment for their virtual community engagement sessions, and he said his goal will be to push the educational component.
“I like our ratepayers to know what is going on,” said Hughes.
“Also, we don’t always take the time to recognize ourselves, but Sunday night at almost -50 degrees Celsius, volunteers left to put a fire out a fire in one of their neighbour’s houses. I want to look at the value the volunteers bring to the game, and I want to bring more recruits into this profession,” said Hughes.
A celebration for the long service of past director, Orest Popil, will take place after public gathering restrictions are lifted.