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Former Fort McMurray fire chief accused of harassment in earlier jobs

One-on-one with Fire Chief Darby Allen
WATCH (June 1, 2016): He became the face of the Fort McMurray wildfire battle. Now, Fire Chief Darby Allen is back and helping as residents come back. Gord Steinke catches up with him.

WARNING: This article contains mature subject matter. 

A former Alberta fire chief hailed by many as a hero for his role in battling the destructive Fort McMurray wildfire in 2016 has been accused of sexually harassing a female subordinate during previous jobs he had.

The allegations against Darby Allen when he worked in Calgary’s fire department date back to about 2002 and have not been proven in court.

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

The woman filed a statement of claim in Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench in 2018 that alleges Allen made sexually charged comments, groped her and became hostile when she made plans with other men. It also alleges Allen poked her in the back with his erect penis in her cubicle.

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“Allen subjected the plaintiff to near daily sexual harassment, assaults and battery,” says the claim, first reported by CBC News on Thursday.

“Allen abused his power and authority over the plaintiff to threaten her employment, as well as her personal autonomy and safety, to further his sexual harassment and battery.”

READ MORE: Former Wood Buffalo fire chief reflects on Canada’s largest wildfire evacuation

The claim also alleges the City of Calgary knew that Allen, who was decades older than the plaintiff, was abusing his power.

“At all material times, the city allowed Allen unfettered authority and power in his positions of power over the plaintiff.”

The claim says Allen’s actions caused or worsened the woman’s post-traumatic stress disorder and resulted in headaches, night terrors, insomnia, depression and other ailments.

The document says a city investigation ultimately led to Allen being fired.

WATCH BELOW (Feb. 20, 2017): Fort McMurray’s Fire Chief Darby Allen will retire February 24. The 60-year-old says last year’s wildfire took a toll on him, but that he feels somewhat guilty about leaving. As Reid Fiest reports, despite that, Allen maintains he’d do nothing different.

Fort McMurray’s fire chief bids farewell
Fort McMurray’s fire chief bids farewell

Allen, who is originally from the United Kingdom, became the face of the fight against the Fort McMurray fire, which he famously nicknamed “the beast.”

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When he and other Fort McMurray first responders marched in the Calgary Stampede parade two months after the disaster, Allen’s history in Calgary was not widely known. He said at the time it was “like coming home again.”

In a statement of defence filed last May, Allen denied the harassment allegations and said the matter was settled when the woman accepted compensation from the city.

It also said the plaintiff signed a release which “acknowledged that she released all employees of the City of Calgary, and by implication, Allen.”

The woman told the CBC that she did not sign such a document or receive any compensation.

The city says in its statement of defence that the court has no authority to hear the claim and asks that the suit be dismissed with costs. It filed a separate application last February saying the matter should be settled through arbitration and asked the court to strike the statement of claim.

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

Allen left his job as Fort McMurray fire chief in early 2017. He told The Canadian Press at the time that he and his wife were looking to relocate somewhere more temperate due to her health.

His LinkedIn page says he now lives in Vancouver and does public speaking.

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WATCH BELOW (May 12, 2016): Regional Fire Chief of Wood Buffalo, Darby Allen says he’s stepping back and letting experts in the re-entry and re-build phase do their work.

The face of the Fort McMurray fire fight cedes next stage of operation
The face of the Fort McMurray fire fight cedes next stage of operation