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Maple Ridge fire chief set to retire

Howard Exner started as a volunteer firefighter 30 years ago
Maple Ridge fire chief Howard Exner is retiring. (The News files)

Maple Ridge Fire Chief Howard Exner is working his last week for the city, ending a career that began here 30 years ago.

Exner started with the fire department as a volunteer in 1991 and in 1998 became chief training officer, then became deputy fire chief in 2013. He was named chief with the retirement of Dane Spence five years ago, on July 1, 2016.

Now 60, he is retiring.

When Exner became a firefighter in the city, there were just three chiefs in career positions, and a lot of volunteers.

As the city has grown, so has the department. He has been part of a leadership team that has built a department with six career chiefs, 56 career firefighters and more than 100 paid-on-call firefighters.

He has overseen the opening of Fire Hall No. 4, which serves the Albion area, and is also a training centre. It was completed in October of 2020, after having been planned for more than 20 years.

He said the regulations for firefighters, the training and the professionalism, have been growing throughout his career.

“It’s not like the old days of ‘Here’s a pager, here’s a coat, and here’s a hat.’”

Exner calls firefighters “a breed apart,” and he has appreciated being part of the department.

“It’s been a lot of fun, and there’s lots of challenges in it. And working with a talented group of people to meet those challenges has been rewarding.”

City hall called Exner is a highly decorated firefighter whose professionalism and leadership have earned him numerous awards.

“Chief Exner indicated he did not want any special attention drawn to his retirement, and while I know this media release goes against that request, council and I want to acknowledge Howard’s outstanding service to this community,” said Mayor Mike Morden.

“Chief Exner has helped build the department’s capacity and skill set, which makes all of us safer. He and his team have dealt with extraordinary circumstances, including the homeless encampments and severe weather events with professionalism, compassion and determination. Howard’s first priority is, and has always been, the safety of all citizens and his co-workers.

“On behalf of council and a grateful community, I want to thank him for his vision, leadership and integrity.”

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Exner’s immediate plans are to go camping, relax, and ponder his next steps.

“I have enjoyed my time here,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful experience.”

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Neil Corbett

About the Author: Neil Corbett

I have been a journalist for more than 30 years, the past decade with the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows News.
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