FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Fort St. John’s new fire chief Bob Norton says he wants to honour the legacy of his predecessors and keep the local fire hall operating with a sense of community, integrity, teamwork, and trust.

Norton takes over the duties from Darrell Blades, and also takes over as the city’s director of public safety.

After two years as the deputy chief, as well nearly 10 years as fire chief in Hudson’s Hope and 20 years in the Canadian Forces Fire Service, Norton says he’s here to serve the city for the long haul – it will be his last post until retirement.

“We’ve got a fantastic staff here, we’ve been very fortunate to have such a great staff – very skilled, very dedicated group, it’s a pleasure to work with everybody within the public safety division, that includes bylaw, that also includes RCMP, municipal staff as well,” said Norton.

“I’m looking forward to carrying on all the good work that Chief Blades has done in the past, and Chief Burrows before him,” he continued.

“Over the past couple of years, we’ve been focusing internally on our staff and looking at ways we can build upon their skill sets, not only their critical job skills but also professional development – leadership skills and things like that, to help them become the future of the department.”

Norton says he wants to continue their efforts to include the public in emergency planning, education, and awareness, noting the department has been more active on social media. The fire hall is always looking to connect with the community, he says.

“Given the events we’ve seen in the province over the past few years, in terms of scope and duration, not only do we have to prepare for, respond to, and recover from events here in the community, but also look at ways of how we support other communities,” said Norton.

Norton says the scope of the municipal hall extends to other communities too, and also want to support where they can. Fire departments in the Peace Region have a history of lending aid when its needed, with crews sent south last summer to assist with provincial wildfire efforts.

“We do have a bit of a wildfire risk here, not as much as some of the other places that have a lot more interface, like Hudson’s Hope or Tumbler Ridge,” said Norton. “There are a lot of climate related issues, we’ve seen how climate change has impacted the province, especially over the past year.”