Monday, July 11, 2016

On Fire- With Fire Chief David Cunliffe

Fire Chief David Cunliffe
In this first edition of "On Fire" , a feature we hope to have from time to time in which we engage the city's Fire Chief for information on matters related to fire-fighting , we checked in with our new Fire Chief David Cunliffe. Enjoy our chat with Chief Cunliffe.

1. What will your focus be in the first 90 days of your role as the new Fire Chief. What will your priorities be and how will you approach them?

I have three main areas of focus for the first 90 days:

· To begin the process of filling the Deputy Chief vacancy
· To begin to work with my team on the development of the draft 2017 operating & capital budgets
· To provide support to my team to ensure that they are well on their way to successfully accomplish the goals set out in their 2016 work plans.


Given the significant change over in personnel that the HFD has been experiencing, one of my

priorities is the development of a succession plan for the Department along with an accompanying professional development plan for staff. To help with this priority, I will be seeking input from both management and staff, as well as connecting with peers in the Fire Service to find out what others have been/are doing relative to succession planning and professional development.

Given Councils approved new vision statement for the City “to be the best place to raise a child and age successfully”, one of the priorities for the Fire Department will be to identify the role that it will play in helping the City achieve this vision. To do this, I will be looking at developing and implementing a stakeholder engagement strategy that will help us better understand what our role in the community is, and what changes we need to consider for the future.

2. Does the fire department have a formal recruitment and retention strategy. If so, do you believe it will adequately address the onslaught of retirements?

Yes, the fire department has a formal recruitment and retention strategy. Based on our current number of projected retirements for the next four years, we are confident that the current process will adequately address this. Also, retention is generally not an issue when we hire people into a career firefighting position.
3. What does it take to be a good fire-fighter. What advice would you have to any man or woman who is considering a career in fire fighting?

I would suggest that, first and foremost, to be a good firefighter you need to be compassionate and you need to have a passion to help people. It certainly helps to have had some life experiences that you can draw upon. You have to have integrity and you need to be an honest person. You need to be the type of person who doesn’t mind “getting their hands dirty” as the work is very physical and labour intensive. You need to be in both good physical and mental health.

If you have the skills, traits and values listed above and are interested in being a firefighter, then Hamilton and the Hamilton Fire Department is worth your consideration. Given the risk profile of our City, members of the Hamilton Fire Department have the potential of being engaged in a wide breath of responses that are not seen in many cities, that include responses like: Hazmat, high angle, confined space, auto extrication, medical related calls, structure fires, vehicle fires, industrial fires, alarm calls, rescues, Chemical Biological, Radioactive, Nuclear, Explosive (CBRNE) events just to name some. Hamilton provides a varied range of opportunity for firefighters and we would encourage you to apply on line, at the City’s website when a recruitment drive is on.

4. Do you think the Hamilton fire department is in good shape in terms of its fleet, condition of its equipment, its material resources and the like. In other words, does the department have what it needs to optimally respond to fires? What would be on your wish list, if you were given additional resources?

Given the replacement programs that we have in place, I would suggest that both our vehicles and equipment are in good shape. We are very fortunate that Council has been, and continues to be, very supportive when it comes to the purchase/replacement of vehicles and equipment for our Department. We have in place a capital replacement program that sees us replace all large front line vehicles every 20 years. This helps us meet the requirements as outlined by the Fire Underwriters Survey (FUS), the organization that sets the fire insurance grading for our City. Similarly, we have a capital replacement program set up for our firefighting equipment which allows us to replace the equipment when it gets to “end of life”.

I don’t have a wish list, however what I would say is, given the state of change and development that the City is experiencing, the Fire Department on an ongoing basis updates and reviews our risk profile. If, based on our findings, it is identified that changes in resources are required, we would bring this to the attention of Council.

5. Labour relations is always a critical part of leading. What accounts for the good working relationship you have with the Hamilton Professional Firefighters Association Local 288?

Having been the Deputy Chief for the past nine years, I have had the opportunity to work with President Henry Watson and the members of the Union Executive on a number of issues. I would suggest that during this time we have collectively built a relationship of respect for each other and the role that each other has within their respective organization. We ultimately both have the same goal, serving and protecting the citizens of Hamilton.

6. Is there anything else you’d like Hamiltonians to know about the fire department or about your focus as Chief?

I would like to thank the citizens of our great City for their ongoing support of the Hamilton Fire Department and I want them to know that the women and men who proudly serve the Hamilton Fire Department are truly dedicated to providing caring and compassionate service when called upon to help during a time of need.

Thanks Chief Cunliffe for engaging with Hamiltonians via The Hamiltonian. We look forward to future opportunities to check in with the good men and women of the Fire Department, through your office. 

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