Exner’s first official day as fire chief is July 1.

New Maple Ridge fire chief to keep ‘rolling’

Howard Exner takes over for Dane Spence.

As one chief departs, another arrives to continue the effort to keep Maple Ridge and its residents safe.

Howard Exner officially takes over as chief of Maple Ridge Fire and Rescue as of today.

And all he wants to do now is keep the forward momentum set by his predecessors, Peter Grootendorst and Dane Spence.

“Under the direction of Grootendorst and during that same time, Chief Spence, we’ve done a lot really good work and a lot of big projects that are important to the city have been accomplished,” Exner said.

Grootendorst retired as one of two fire chiefs three years ago after serving 30 years, then accepted a job at the Justice Institute of B.C.

Dane Spence’s send-off as retiring chief took place on Monday at Fire Hall No. 1. He had also been with the department for 30 years.

“My first day of retirement is July 1, Canada Day. I look forward to seeing the Canadian flag flying from Tower 1 and enjoying the day with my family,” Spence said in a May release.

“I am very proud of the team we have assembled. Serving our community and answering the calls for help has been an honour and a privilege.”

Mayor Nicole Read added that Spence’s leadership “has been essential as our community has transitioned from the volunteer-operating model to the composite model we have today. He has been a true leader and a strong voice on our management team.”

Over the course of a decade, the fire department moved from an all-volunteer force to a composite model, with 53 full-time firefighters and 62 paid-on call firefighters. That long-term plan was completed in 2015.

Exner said that two immediate priorities for now are completing the purchase of two new fire trucks and reviewing the Community Wildfire Protection plan, “to make sure it’s still relevant for today.”

Protecting against wildfires has become a more high-profile concern following the forest fires that devastated Fort McMurray, Alta. this spring.

“It goes to disaster planning, in general. I don’t think the city can do everything by itself. There’s just no way that the city can be prepared to meet every disaster of every type,” Exner said.

Instead, there have to be plans in place to draw in assistance where needed. That’s what the federal and provincial governments are for, he added.

There is also the matter of building Fire Hall No. 4 on 112th Avenue in the eastern part of Maple Ridge.

Because of the cost, about $6 million, it’s been a controversial topic.

“It’s still in the work plan. We’re hoping to bring that forward this year for council’s consideration,” Exner added.

He started with the fire department as a volunteer in 1991 and in 1998 became chief training officer, then became deputy fire chief in 2013.

Thanks to Spence’s previous work, “there are really not a lot of hot burning issues right now,” Exner said.

Spence “has always been the ‘Steady Eddy’ kind of guy. He’s had a good lay of the land. He’s built the fire department in lots of different ways and prepared the fire department to move forward.”

Exner said Spence can now look back and say, “It’s time for me to go and it’s OK and I can hand it off to the next group of people.”

The new chief said some routine tasks need doing. There are some minor issues in the work plan and training is required to fill some vacancies. But mostly he just wants to keep things rolling.

“That what I see my direction is right now, that we maintain, that we continue to operate in the usual manner that we’ve had, that we all enjoy here.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

MRI arrives at Maple Ridge hospital this week

A $5-million diagnostic machine has been bolted into place at Ridge Meadows Hospital

LETTER: Telosky park being treated like a garbage can

Maple Ridge resident upset by the amount of littering found in revamped facilities

VIDEO: Pitt Meadows seniors enjoy outdoor dance party for Seniors Week

Outdoor party held in the parking lot of the Pitt Meadows Seniors Activity Centre

VIDEO: Pitt Meadows dentist gets grand welcome home after two-month COVID-19 battle

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

Maple Ridge to recognize 2020 grads with light display at Memorial Peace Park and community cheer

Community cheer scheduled for June 20 and light display available all month

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Thanks for helping The News to continue its mission to provide trusted local news

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Stray dog with duct tape around muzzle spotted in Abbotsford

Pooch has been spotted over two days, but has escaped capture so far

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

No need to get out of your car at food truck festival in Abbotsford and Langley

Annual event takes drive-thru approach during COVID-19 pandemic

New study is first full list of species that only exist in Canada

Almost 40 per cent of them are critically imperilled or imperilled and eight are already extinct

Most Read