Jim Daigneault

Jim Daigneault named new fire chief

Jim Daigneault, a long-time volunteer and instructor at the Houston fire department, took over as Houston fire chief in late October.

Hauling a heavy hose as you crawl into a burning building with a mask and air tank on is not something you could pay many people to do.

But dozens volunteer to do it at the Houston fire department.

“That’s where the fun and the challenges come,” says Jim Daigneault, who took over as Fire Chief at the end of October.

Ken Thomson, Houston’s previous Fire Chief, stepped down after more than 30 years of service at the department.

Starting as a dispatcher, Daigneault has been a volunteer at the Houston department for 10 years.

When the opportunity to train up—first as a first responder, then for road and fire rescue—Daigneault jumped at the chance.

Soon, he found himself riding engines right in the thick of it.

“It’s kind of eerie at times,” he said. “You’ve got all your gear on—lots of extra weight—and then you get into a smoky environment where you probably can’t see.”

Although Daigneault has never been burned firefighting, it’s only because he’s learned to stay low.

“If you stand up in a room, the heat can be a thousand degrees,” he said. “It will start to melt the visors on the helmets pretty quick.”

Daigneault said he really enjoys putting in time at the fire department, mostly because of the varied training.

“There’s a broad scope of things to do,” he said.

As well as fires, the Houston crew handles call-outs to do high-angle rescues for people who might have crashed a car off a steep road bank. Firefighters also train to use the “jaws of life” to pry open crashed vehicle doors and other metal structures that impede a rescue.

“You can cut through just about anything,” said Daigneault, although the newer steel on some cars is getting tougher to split. The “jaws” are actually three tools—a cutter, a spreader and ram that run on a hydraulic engine.

Firefighters also act as first responders when ambulances are tied up. The Houston department responds to fire calls in the District area, but answers road rescue calls all the way from Granisle down to Nanika Lake.

As Fire Chief, Daigneault has extra duties. As well as being the only full-time member to man the department, he is charged with coordinating local emergency services in case of a natural disaster.

Watching Ken Thomson working with all the police, ambulance, sandbaggers and other responders during the spring floods last year, Daigneault got a good idea of what might be in store.

“He didn’t get a lot of sleep. He was a pretty busy guy making sure the emergency centres are set up.”

The department is looking for fresh recruits, Daigneault said. It typically runs with 30 volunteers, but has 24 at the moment.

“Really, there are not a lot of prerequisites,” Daigneault said. “The better shape you’re in, the easier it is on you, for sure.”

The current team includes Daigneault’s daughter, who got her start as a Junior Firefighter—a program for Grade 10 and 11 students. She’s now one of two women on the crew.

“It’s good to have a mix,” Daigneault said. “Good to see more women involved.”

Daigneault’s son is also in the business, and now works as a full-time firefighter in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

“It’s a great opportunity, and a great group of people who volunteer right now.”

 

Just Posted

B.C. turns up the heat

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement for most the province due to high temperatures

Skeena First Nations push for full closure of recreational fishery

Eight First Nations on the Skeena River watershed say DFO’s chinook restrictions isn’t enough

‘Daddy bonus’ common in B.C. workplaces, study finds

UBC researchers say dads don’t have to be number one in the office to get a raise

30 degrees and warmer forecasted with heat wave in B.C.

The weather could stay well into next week, according to Environment Canada

Family reunion almost 50 years in the making

Adopted Norwegian man finds his biological mother in Endako.

Canada won’t ‘play politics’ on U.S. migrant children policy

The U.S. government is under fire over its ”zero tolerance” policy

Three injured after industrial explosion in Newfoundland

The roof of the warehouse was blown off in the explosion near St. John’s

Ottawa Senators trade Mike Hoffman, less than a week after allegations involving partner

Following the trade Senators make no mention of allegations against Hoffman’s partner

Late goal gives England 2-1 win over Tunisia

At the last World Cup in 2014, England couldn’t even win a game

Canadian military police officer pleads not guilty to sex assault

Sgt. Kevin MacIntyre, 48, entered his plea today at a court martial proceeding in Halifax

Cheers erupt as Federal Court judge approves historic gay purge settlement

Gay military veterans said they were interrogated, harassed and spied on because of their sexuality

Remains of two people found on Vancouver Island

Officials have not said whether or not the remains belong to two missing men, last seen in Ucluelet in mid-May

Helping B.C.’s helpers cope

The MRT has helped almost 7,000 first responders and street workers in 57 communities in B.C.

Border officials argue B.C. man’s Facebook posts threat to Canada’s security

A B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted Othman Hamdan of terrorism charges last September

Most Read