By Alison Taylor
After 34 years in the fire service, Whistler’s Fire Chief,
Bruce Hall, is retiring and a new fire chief will be ramping up the resort’s
Olympic preparations for the 2010 Games.
His successor is current Assistant Fire Chief Rob Whitton, who
has been with the Whistler force for the past four and a half years. Whitton
will have the unique job description of fire chief of a resort preparing to
host the Winter Games.
“It will be (a challenge),” Whitton said this week, of his
responsibilities preparing Whistler’s firefighting plans for the Games. “I’m
looking forward to it though. I think it’s going to be exciting and I think
everybody involved within the entire department is going to step up and will be
really amazed at what we come up with.”
Hall retires at the end of December, after six years as the
head of the Whistler department. He said this week that it was just time for
him to retire, leaving Whitton with three years to prepare for the Games.
“I knew I wasn’t going to be around for the Olympics and I felt
strongly that I needed to go prior to the Olympics to give my successor the
opportunity to develop along with the Olympic planning within the resort
municipality,” said Hall.
He recommended Whitton for the job.
With 20 years as a firefighter under his belt, Whitton was
poised to assume the position of chief. But it takes more than experience to
handle the pressures of the top job.
Whitton, a father of two and grandfather of five, had to go
through a psychological evaluation by a career development psychologist to see
if he was up for the challenge.
“It’s more or less how you deal with people and your management
style and your ability to deal effectively with others, primarily at the
executive level,” said Whitton, who recently finished a masters of arts in
leadership and training from Royal Rhodes University.
Whitton will be responsible for overseeing two assistant fire
chiefs, four lieutenants, 16 career firefighters and 60 paid on-call
The 46-year-old career firefighter moved to Whistler with his
wife in 2002 to be assistant fire chief after 15 years in the Abbotsford
As chief, he’ll be taking over from Hall’s work already
underway with the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games. Hall said
they have just submitted a confidential report to VANOC on fire service
delivery for the Games.
Next year will see the planning ramp up to a new level,
particularly the fire planning for the individual Olympic venues such as the
athletes’ village and the bobsled/luge track. It is not clear how many
firefighters and equipment will be needed for those 60 days in 2010.
“I would say that probably by the end of 2007, beginning 2008,
we’ll have a very clear picture of what’s going to be required within the
municipality,” said Whitton.
In addition to his role in Whistler, Hall was also the
president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of B.C. and a member of the board of
directors of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. He was also the chair of
the B.C. Public Fire and Life Safety Advisory Committee.
He has resigned from his various boards but will continue as
chair of the board of the Justice Institute.
His six years in Whistler, he said, was made easier by the team
effort from council and municipal staff, by the local firefighters union and
the management team at the fire hall.
Though he is looking forward to retirement in Whistler,
firefighting will always be close to his heart.
“To a certain extent being in the fire service is something that kind of gets into your blood. Certainly I’ll miss it. But I’m really looking forward to a change and something new and different.”