November 28, 2016 2:14 pm
Updated: November 29, 2016 8:59 am

Halifax searches for next fire chief

Halifax Fire Chief Doug Trussler is set to retire from Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency.

Mairin Prentiss/Global News

Halifax is searching for its next fire chief.

Fire Chief Doug Trussler will be retiring in June after taking on the job in January 2012.

READ MORE: Halifax fire chief stands by controversial plan to restructure service

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A request for proposal was put out by Halifax Regional Municipality on Monday seeking a recruitment firm or specialist to help in recruiting individuals for both Trussler’s role and the role of emergency management division chief, currently held by Barry Manuel.

In an email, Halifax spokesperson Brendan Elliott said Trussler’s five-year contract was coming to a close, but he would stay on for six more months until “ideally someone new is in the job.” A clause in the contract would have allowed for up to a year’s extension.

“He’s 60 years old, has 32 years on the job and says it’s time to retire,” Elliott wrote.

Trussler was in several fire service roles prior to his time at Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, serving in both Toronto and British Columbia.

READ MORE: Halifax councillors reject latest firefighter staffing motion

The fire chief has faced criticism during his time in Halifax, most recently in his proposal earlier this year to restructure services.

His proposal included converting the Patton Road fire station into a volunteer-run station, and using career firefighters during the day and volunteers at night to staff the King Street and Lady Hammond Road fire stations.

READ MORE: Despite push back, fire chief steadfast in proposed station closures

Council voted against the proposal, proposing hiring more career firefighters to fill gaps Trussler detailed.

The vote against the proposal was a repeat against a recommendation last year to close all three fire stations, which Trussler had also advocated for. Closures of four rural stations had also been proposed.

READ MORE: Halifax council votes against proposed fire station closures

Residents had put forward petitions opposing the closures and former District 5 councillor Gloria McCluskey had argued seniors, aging buildings and new developments showed a need to keep the King Street station open.

Manuel’s retirement is also coming in the new year, but Elliott said in a phone interview the division chief gave several months notice to give time to find a suitable replacement.

“He has a tremendous amount of institutional knowledge of everything to do with emergency measures and emergency management in the municipality,” Elliott said.

Manuel started his career in Dartmouth as a police officer in 1978, Elliott said, before working on emergency management office files in 1985.

“[He’s] been our lead on everything from the aftermath of the Swissair disaster to Hurricane Juan, White Juan, to forest fires that affected homes and subdivisions over the past decade,” Elliott said. “So he is the person we rely on and look to for direction when responding to major disasters.”

He said losing both Trussler and Manuel is “a huge deal.”

READ MORE: Halifax fire chief apologizes to black firefighters who experienced racism

Another reason Trussler is remaining as chief until June, Elliott added, was because he would bring recommendations on service delivery standards — the amount of time required for firefighters to arrive at an emergency — to regional council in the new year.

“It’s talking about how long is acceptable for a firefighter to arrive at an emergency,” Elliott said.

The standards were looked at in 2006 when they were first approved and have not been reviewed since. It is part of the third stage of fire service review, which will include an overall review of the department’s role.

“Those are pretty important initiatives that the chief would want to be around for,” Elliott said. “It wouldn’t be fair to put that on someone who’s brand new, who wouldn’t understand the staffing model or the history of the fire department.”

Manuel’s last day will be April 30, while Trussler’s will be June 30.

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