Picture Butte’s new fire chief keeps it in the family
Some kids dreams of becoming a firefighter – often inspired by those playing the heroes on television – but for Picture Butte’s newest fire chief, it was in his genes.
“It wasn’t even a consideration,” said Picture Butte Fire Chief Frank West.
“You come of age and you join the fire service.”
West was elected as the new fire chief on Jan. 5, after taking over as deputy fire chief in November.
He comes from a long line of firefighters.
His father Sam worked in the department for 26 years and held the role of fire chief for 17 of those years.
His sister Amy was with the squad for nearly 12 years and his brother Casey is currently a captain.
Born and raised in Picture Butte, Frank West spent most of his childhood in the town’s fire hall, anxiously waiting for the day when he would be eligible to join the team.
“A week after my 18th birthday, I joined the fire department,” he said. “I hit the ground running from there.”
Frank says his sister Amy has led by example. She took over for their dad as deputy fire chief following his retirement.
“I’ve been following my sister Amy up through the ranks of this department, pretty much ever since I joined,” he said.
After over a decade, she handed the reins to her little brother. In January, Frank was named chief.
At the the age 26, he is the youngest fire chief to lead Picture Butte’s Fire Department.
However, his colleagues tells Global News although he’s young, his leadership is second to none.
“As a leader, there’s no one I’d rather follow than Frank,” Capt. Justin Chronik said.
Chronik has known West for years. He has witnessed his climb up the ranks, from firefighter, to lieutenant, to captain, to deputy fire chief, and now fire chief.
“He knows everything that needs to get done,” Chronik said.
“It doesn’t matter whether we’re going to an accident or a structure fire, he’ll let you know what he wants done.”
Chronik says West exemplifies leadership within the force.
“I wouldn’t follow anyone else,” he said.
“He shows how just being dedicated and working hard, you can achieve extremely great things.”
The greatest title of all for West though, isn’t fire chief; it’s dad.
With a three-month-old at home, the first-time father reminds himself to always stay grounded.
“We’re still fire men, we’re still there for the protection of the public, the citizens,” West said. “But at the same time, we have families to go home to as well.”
He hopes that now, with a family to call his own, another West will one day join the brigade.
“If my son comes up, he’ll be the fourth generation of this department.”
© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.