BONNYVILLE – On Tuesday, it was announced that the Bonnyville Regional Fire Authority (BRFA) deputy fire chief Dan Heney, who had stepped in as the acting regional fire chief, will fill the role permanently.
The position was left vacant after Jay Melvin, the previous regional fire chief moved on from the role in mid-November.
Meeting last week, the BRFA Board of Directors announced the appointment of Heney as Regional Fire Chief effective Dec. 10. The board is made up of the MD of Bonnyville reeve and two councillors as well as the Town of Bonnyville mayor and two councillors.
Heney has been with the Regional Fire Authority since 2019 in the role of regional deputy fire chief, and has nearly 30 years of experience in fire and emergency services with vast experience in managerial roles.
According to the BRFA Chair, Elisa Brosseau, the board was confident with the professionalism, knowledge, and experience that Heney has displayed in his prior role with the BRFA.
“Knowing those experiences and skills that Dan has, was what made the decision a little bit easier for the board to go ahead with filling the position,” Brosseau told Lakeland Today.
Heney was the only person interviewed for the regional fire chief position.
Brosseau said the board had not intended to have succession planning for the regional fire chief position, however, with the role becoming available and Heney’s extensive knowledge specific to the BRFA and his rapport with the members of the organization, they wanted to give him the opportunity to interview for the position if he was interested.
Town Coun. Brian McEvoy, who had retired as the regional fire chief in 2018 before handing the reigns to his former deputy chief Jay Melvin, took a moment during the regular council meeting to acknowledge Heney’s promotion.
“Dan is a success story because he started in the fire service as a volunteer in Bonnyville and has worked all over Western Canada and in the Middle East in the fire service. Now he is back here, and I think he will be a very good asset for the Bonnyville regional Fire Authority in our community.”
McEvoy also sits on the BRFA board.
Half excited, half terrified
Following the public announcement of his appointment to regional fire chief of the BRFA, Heney told Lakeland Today that he feels “half and half. Excited and terrified.”
“Now it means I need to know everything about everything, versus before I needed to worry about the things that were in my portfolio,” said Heney. “But with (Melvin) moving on to another opportunity – absolutely, I'm happy that the board felt comfortable promoting me and that they have faith that I'm the leader that they're looking for.”
Although Heney worked alongside the previous chief and helped out where he was needed, the new promotion means taking responsibility of the entire regional authority.
“Now I'm the one who needs to decide who's doing what and making sure that I'm keeping an eye on everything that's happening in the organization,” he said.
With a focus on collaboration, Heney added “I would like to think that it's my job to be the ultimate support for the rest of the organization... It's my job to do things that allow them to continue to do their jobs well. I have faith that all of the leaders in this organization do a good job, and I have faith that the members of the organization have the same level of faith with their leaders.”
In March, it will mark 29 years that Heney has worked in some capacity within the fire service industry.
“I spent a big chunk of that working my way up the ladder, so to speak, working my way towards chief officer status,” he remarked. “I'm happy about the promotion, that said... until I knew the chief was leaving, I probably would have been perfectly happy finishing my career as the deputy.”
For Heney, returning to his hometown to take his former role as the deputy fire chief was an opportunity to continue practicing his trade in a community he was deeply connected to.
“It’s very humbling to be to be able to finish up my career in my hometown doing what I love around the people that I love, and I do understand that I've got great big shoes to fill. Jay Melvin and before him, Brian McEvoy were great leaders with the organization and spent a lot of time moving the organization forward and I look forward to carrying on the challenge.”
Taking over the top position, Heney’s next job will be to find a replacement for the BRFA’s regional deputy fire chief. The role left vacant following Heney’s promotion.
The BRFA Board only oversees the hiring of the chief, all other positions within the organization fall under the regional fire chief’s authority, directly.
“We'll do a wide search on trying to find the next regional deputy to come in and be the second in command,” said Heney, adding the posting for the job will be released in the next couple of days.
It will be an open competition and widely advertised, he noted.