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Fort McMurray names new fire chief with Darby Allen set to retire

Jody Butz has been named Fort McMurray's new fire chief, as Darby Allen retires at the end of February. Global News

With Darby Allen set to retire as Fort McMurray’s fire chief at the end of the month, the northern Alberta municipality has named his replacement.

Jody Butz, who has been with Regional Emergency Services since 2001, will begin his role as fire chief on Feb. 27.

Outgoing chief Allen said it’s been a pleasure to work closely with Butz, adding he played a key leadership role during last May’s wildfire as assistant deputy chief of operations.

“Jody’s experience in Wood Buffalo, as well as in rural and volunteer firefighting, is an asset for our fire department. I’m confident that I will be leaving our fire department in good hands,” Allen said.

READ MORE: Fort McMurray fire chief ‘guilty’ for retiring but has no regrets on handling the wildfire

Butz, along with a group of quick-thinking firefighters, was involved in keeping “the beast” from spreading into the Birchwood Trails, a wooded area that stretches between Timberlea and Thickwood. Nearly 60,000 people live within the two communities.

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READ MORE: The battle of Birchwood Trails during the Fort McMurray wildfire 

At the time, fire crews said if the wildfire had spread into the Birchwood Trails, there would have been no stopping it.

“The risk of Birchwood going up, I don’t know what the number would be for loss, it just wasn’t an option,” Butz said in an interview with Global News in June. “We were getting beat all over town, but we will not lose Birchwood Trails.”

Watch below: A group of firefighters, including Jody Butz, and a red blanket helped save a big part of Fort McMurray during last spring’s wildfire. (Story filed by Quinn Ohler in June 2016).

Click to play video: 'Heroic measures by Fort McMurray firefighters' Heroic measures by Fort McMurray firefighters
Heroic measures by Fort McMurray firefighters – Jun 18, 2016

“We are thrilled to welcome someone with Jody’s experience, skills and knowledge as our next regional fire chief,” said Annette Antoniak, interim chief administrative officer of the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.

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“Jody knows our region well and brings exceptional leadership and professionalism to the position.”

Butz was involved in the emergency operations and recovery efforts during Fort McMurray’s 2013 flood. He has also worked as an EMT program coordinator and instructor at Keyano College.

Watch below: Global’s Reid Fiest sat down with Fort McMurray Fire Chief Darby Allen as he prepares for retirement.

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