County names McDermott new fire chief

Big Lake County welcomes new fire chief John McDermott.
Former HP firefighter is well-known in area

Richard Froese
South Peace News

John McDermott has come full circle as the new fire chief for Big Lakes County.

“This area is home for me,” says McDermott, who started the position on Jan. 3.

Born, raised and schooled in High Prairie, he is passionate to promote partnerships.

“I’m a big fan of working together, collaborating and streamlining, making sure we are able to provide a reliable service effectively,” says McDermott, who has 18 years experience in emergency services along with 13 years of emergency medical services.

“I want to create opportunities to work together with High Prairie, Swan Hills and neighbouring municipalities, from training, information and education to operations.”

He is also committed to share services with other neighbouring communities that the county has already started.

“We want to complete more mutual-aid agreements with First Nations in the region,” McDermott says.

Co-operative and regional efforts have been the primary focus of his career in fire services that started in January 2000 when he became a firefighter for the Lesser Slave Regional Fire Service centred in Slave Lake.

He then served in many leadership roles for the regional service in the M.D. of Smoky River based in Falher.

Overall, he oversees all aspects of fire and rescue services in the county that include fire halls in the hamlets of Enilda, Faust, Grouard, Joussard, and Kinuso.

“I want to be accessible with opportunities so it will benefit our firefighters who have committed to serve our communities in fire service,” says McDermott, who was a volunteer firefighter for High Prairie for about five years before he launched his full-time career.

Recruiting new firefighters will be another priority for the new fire chief.

“We are reviewing recruiting volunteers for the county fire services as a whole,” McDermott says.

He will also be involved in planning and providing services for emergency management.

McDermott has been educated, trained and certified as a professional firefighter, hazmat operator, fire service instructor and fire investigator.

He has extensive experience in operational firefighting, command, formal instruction and fire origin and cause investigations including evidence collection.

McDermott is certified by the International Association of Arson Investigators as a fire investigation technician and is a trained wildfire investigator.

He serves the presidents of the Fire Investigation Association of Alberta chapter of the IAAI (2017-2019).

Over the years, he has served and led committees in training, education, and curriculum development and working with fire investigators from around the world.

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