Nelson hires new fire chief

Len MacCharles has been chosen out of 39 candidates to be the new chief of Nelson Fire and Rescue.

Calgarian Len MacCharles is the new chief of Nelson Fire and Rescue.

Calgarian Len MacCharles is the new chief of Nelson Fire and Rescue.

Nelson Fire and Rescue recently celebrated the centennial of their hall, and this afternoon the city announced that they’ve hired a new fire chief.

Calgarian Len MacCharles was selected from a pool of 39 applicants as the new chief of Nelson Fire and Rescue. He will begin the new position in the historic fire hall on November 13, taking over for retiring chief Simon Grypma.

“We were very impressed with the knowledge and the initiative that Len has shown throughout his career,” said city manager Kevin Cormack.

In May 2011, MacCharles was named the incident commander in the aftermath of the firestorm that swept through Slave Lake, at the time Canada’s costliest disaster. Pegged at $700 million, the fire destroyed one third of the area, including 374 properties in and around the town. The disaster left 732 residents homeless.

MacCharles, 57, has nearly 35 years of experience with the Calgary Fire Department, where he started his career in 1981. He progressed through numerous positions, serving most recently as the deputy chief operations, effectiveness, efficiency and evaluation. He was responsible for 1,300 fire fighters.

Cormack said he was particularly impressed with the Calgary fire victim initiative MacCharles championed after a fatal house fire in the Alberta city a few years ago.

“Len created a program that supported families involved in tragedies like the one in this particular fatality, where the actual firefighters who respond to the blaze could later help folks cope with their loss. Now that program has been implemented for all fires in Calgary, where responding fire fighters take an active role in providing support for affected families,” he said.

MacCharles has a master’s certificate in municipal leadership, a bachelor’s degree in law and society and certified emergency manager designation.

MacCharles was given the chance to tour the hall, meet a number of the firefighters and review operational plans.

“Len was extremely impressed with the professionalism of the fire department,” Cormack said. “It’s a credit to Chief Grypma that Len will inherit such a high-functioning Fire and Rescue service.”

Nelson Fire and Rescue responds to approximately 1,000 calls per year. The department consists of a chief, assistant chief, three captains, six firefighters, a secretary-dispatcher and 21 auxiliary firefighters.

“We’re very fortunate to have found such a highly qualified individual to fill the very big shoes of our retiring chief,” said Cormack.

Grypma will work with MacCharles through the transition. MacCharles will become the 19th chief in the history of the Nelson fire department, dating back to 1897.