London’s fire chief unexpectedly retires

File photo. Matthew Trevithick / 980 CFPL

The City of London announced Monday morning that Fire Chief John Kobarda will be retiring from his position, effective immediately.

In a news release, city manager Martin Hayward says the process to recruit for the role will begin immediately, while Lori Hamer will assume the role of acting fire chief in the meantime. Hamer was previously one of the city’s deputy fire chiefs.

Kobarda had been a member of the London Fire Department for 27 years, joining the service as a firefighter, and previously serving as president of the London Professional Fire Fighters Association (LPFFA).

READ MORE: London firefighters union to set up working group in response to allegations of harassment in the workplace

“Since the day I joined the department, my focus has been on protecting and serving our community. As many will know, my plan was to retire this year. It has always been my desire to serve the best interests of the Fire Service and the community,” Kobarda said in a news release from the city.

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“It has been my honour and privilege to serve London both as a member and as Chief of the Fire Department.”

In a news release, city manager Martin Hayward thanked Kobarda for the many years of dedicated service and said he was instrumental in reaching a settlement for the latest contract with the firefighters’ union.

“Under his leadership, the department has achieved one of the lowest response times in the country and the department has the proud record of significantly reducing the number of residential fires each year,” Hayward wrote.

In an internal document obtained by 980 CFPL, Hayward confirms that it had been Kobarda’s intention to retire later this year but he moved up the timeline.

“In keeping with his focus on serving the best interests of the service and of the community, he has made the decision to retire today.”

The move happens amid allegations of workplace harassment among civic workers, many of which allegedly came from within the fire department.

READ MORE: LAWC head Megan Walker alleges ‘poisonous working environment’ at London City Hall

The president of the LPFFA, Jason Timlick, wouldn’t comment on speculation the decision is tied to workplace harassment.

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“My association and what I have to focus on is moving forward and making every effort to effect change where there needs to be change, and work together with the current management and leadership team to make improvements where we can to continue to preserve and protect the safe, supportive working environment for all employees,” said Timlick.

“I don’t want to speculate on the timing and circumstances of his retirement.”

Last week, the LPFFA said it’s establishing a joint committee as part of a response to allegations of harassment in the workplace in the city of London.

The association says the creation of the working group comes after “several conversations” with Hayward.

Timlick tells 980 CFPL the group is still in its early stages.

“A working group with all unions in the city, in conjunction with Martin Hayward, to see what we need to do across the board for all city employees.”

Allegations of harassment in the workplace at London city hall have been swirling this month following a two-hour closed-door meeting by London city council early last week

Following the meeting, Hayward issued a statement noting the city has a number of policies and procedures in place to ensure “a workplace that is free of harassment and discrimination.”

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Kobarda was appointed chief in 2004.

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