Fire Fighting in Canada

Fire chiefs and rising stars: Lifelong learners

October 30, 2019 
By Tina Saryeddine

Experts contend that there is a relationship between leadership and lifelong learning. Even after leaders achieve a top position, they stay curious. They test and refine their skills, they look for peer support and they keep growing.

This is true for the chief fire officers in Canada. Many commit to continuous learning and training of all sorts. The Executive Chief Fire Officer (EFCO) program if one of the ways in which they do as it allows chief fire officers to demonstrate their competencies in 30 key areas. The beauty of this program is that it is designed for portability across municipalities and provinces, allowing for a national standard of practice.

“This has advantages for recruitment and mobility,” said Phil Lemire, fire chief in White Rock B.C., president of the Fire Chiefs’ Association of British Columbia and Chair of the ECFO Council.

The ECFO Council sets the curriculum and provides assessments for the candidates. To date, there are over 100 executive fire officers in Canada.


This year, to encourage more diversity in the ECFO candidate programs, the ECFO Council, in collaboration with the diversity and inclusion committee of the CAFC, awarded bursaries to individuals who have the ability to increase diversity in the program.

The bursaries went to Nina McCarthy, deputy fire chief in Fredericton, Jeremy Parkin, deputy fire chief of Rama Fire Rescue Service in Chippewas of Rama First Nation, Ontario and Judy Unsworth, deputy fire chief in Strathmore, Alta.

In addition, Debora Bergeson, assistant deputy fire chief at the Calgary Fire Department, received a bursary for the ECFO Candidate program.

The ECFO Candidate program, not to be confused with candidates of the ECFO program, is a sister program to that of the ECFO that allows those not yet in chief officer positions to try their hand at a subset of associated competencies.

“The ECFO Candidate program is as important to the CAFC as the ECFO program”, said Ken Block, Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs (CAFC) president and Edmonton’s fire chief. In the view of the CAFC board of directors and the National Advisory Council of the CAFC. Planning for the sustainability of the fire sector is as important as addressing the needs of the day. The ECFO Candidate program allows all of our departments to begin grooming our next generation of leaders by allowing them to develop and test in 22 of the 30 ECFO competencies.

The curriculum and technology for the ECFO program was made possible through a 2016 grant from the Motorola Solutions Foundation, which allowed the CAFC to restructure and modernized the former Chief Fire Officer program. Those holding the former CFO designation have until December 2019 to transition. The transition process involves a review of the current status of the CFO holder, a commitment to the maintenance of certification requirements and taking the new oath.

All candidates holding the ECFO candidate program will begin their maintenance of certification in the next year. The maintenance of certification process involves demonstrating a minimum of 25 hours in various competencies. This must be completed every two years.

The CAFC wishes to congratulate the following individuals for their new ECFO designations: Daniel Atkinson, deputy fire chief, Victoria Fire Department; Michael Boyle, division chief, Kennebecasis Valley Fire Department (New Brunswick); Jason De Roy, assistant fire chief, North Vancouver City Fire Department; Brian Hutchinson, fire chief, District of North Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services; Wayne Kennedy, deputy fire chief, District of North Vancouver; Chris Royle, deputy fire chief, Victoria Fire Department; Dan Wood, deputy fire chief, Saanich Fire Department (British Columbia).

If you are interested in the ECFO or the ECFO Candidate program please reach out to the CAFC’s manager of membership services Anabel Therrien at Or check out our website at

Tina Saryeddine, PhD, MHA, CHE, is the executive director of the CAFC.

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