Fire chief’s abrupt departure a surprise

The former chief, who came here from Kitimat three years ago, said he is looking for work

The abruptly ended employment of Campbell River’s fire chief appears to have taken jobless Dean Spry and some of his colleagues by surprise.

On Tuesday City Manager Andy Laidlaw issued a terse release that stated: “On Sept. 14, in an agreeable separation, Mr. Spry stepped down as fire chief.”

Spry, reached at home, was painfully careful about how he characterized his sudden departure. “I came here for a reason … things came to an end,” he said. However, he added: “It came as a surprise to them (some fire hall colleagues) as well.

“I don’t have much to say,” Spry said. “it was a mutual agreement.”

The former chief, who came here from Kitimat three years ago, said he is looking for work. Whether he stays in Campbell River is “not determined. My family would like to stay. My wife just got here a year and a half ago.”

Reid Wharton, president of Local 1668 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, said: “I’m not sure what’s involved.” He said there were no obvious issues boiling under the surface at the fire hall. As for morale, he said: “We always have our struggles with the city budget.”

Wharton said Spry “wasn’t an aggressive man (but) he was a true gentleman.”

Laidlaw’s announcement stated: “We thank Mr. Spry for his efforts with the Campbell River Fire Department on behalf of the citizens of Campbell River, and we wish him well in his future endeavors. Deputy Chief Ian Baikie has accepted the position of acting fire chief until a permanent replacement is hired.”

Spry’s sudden leaving has refocused attention on the frequency of senior staff turnover at the fire department. Baikie will be the fourth man to occupy the chief’s office in six years. In 2007 the Fire Chiefs’ Association of BC was so upset over bad blood between the city and the fire department that it reversed a decision to schedule its annual convention here.

Laidlaw told The Mirror: “This decision comes from the city manager’s office, not council. It was not something that council provided specific direction on.”

Changes in municipal government management “are just part of life,” he said. “I am confident the fire department will continue to serve the community under the acting chief.”

Laidlaw said “there is a transition plan in place” and he is not in a rush to find another person to fill the position. He said he, acting chief Baikie and council will discuss how they will proceed in January.