Darby Allen only has a few days left in his corner officer at Fort McMurray’s downtown station.
The 60-year-old is retiring from his post Friday, after nearly 30 years on the job.
“I’m feeling OK,” Allen told Global News. “It was a big decision obviously. My wife and I have thought about it for a long time.”
WATCH: Fort McMurray fire chief to retire; feeling guilty about leaving
But it was the May 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire that sped up his decision to call it a career.
Despite being sure of his decision to leave, he feels bad about saying goodbye to the region.
“Feelings of guilt, of leaving the department, leaving the community.”
“I don’t want to be looking like I’m deserting, but … those thoughts were coming through my mind.”
Few would have ever predicted he’d be pushed into the spotlight like he was on May 3, 2016.
“I knew that we would be in for a rough day…but it’s always a fine line between how much do you say and how much do you panic people? But we had no concept that it would overrun our city at that time.”
Provincial and local reviews of the fire response and evacuation are underway.
WATCH: Gord Steinke caught up with Fire Chief Darby Allen as he helped residents return after the wildfire
Some have criticized the community for acting too late but Allen disagrees, saying there was no delay in getting people out.
“I look back and see no decisions that I would have changed post-fire,” he said.
“I would do everything the same again.”
The rebuild of the northern Alberta region continues. Even with winter’s chilling temperatures, over 400 building permits have been approved.
Come spring 2017, the real activity is expected to surge as the ground thaws out.
Allen said he’s confident “McMurray” will return stronger than ever.
“I’ll miss the ‘let’s get ‘er done’ spirit,” Allen said. “I’ll miss the warmth of the people.”
Residents like Dan Fouts praise Allen for his service.
“I think Darby—along with all the firefighters and first responders—did a fantastic job.”
June Hochhausen said it was one few others could have done so well.
“I’m counting my blessings we had someone like Darby Allen in the job he was in.”
Allen said he didn’t really deliberately name the fire, but in one interview, he called it the “beast” and it stuck—making headlines worldwide.
“It just came into my mind…this fire-breathing dragon that was an evil thing and it just came out of the beast.”
Allen also became the face of strength early after the evacuation, becoming emotional during a news conference on May 4, 2016, when he told some 80,000 residents: “We are here. We are strong.”
“I did feel we were strong,” Allen recalled. “I feel like we had some incredible people here that were doing the best they could and I knew they would do anything they could to save anything they could.”
WATCH: While fire chief Darby Allen doesn’t think he’s a hero, a lot of people believe otherwise. Eric Sorensen reports.
Allen plans to focus on his family.
He has one son who lives in Calgary and another in Vancouver, which is where he and his wife will retire after purchasing a condo.
A bucket list vacation to Egypt is also in the works.
While history will likely recall Allen for his service last year, he’s looking back at his career as a whole.
“It might have been a house fire, it might have been someone having a heart attack, but it might have been an old lady whose toilet was blocked up and it’s important you do those things,” Allen said.
“I’ve enjoyed every minute of it.”