New West fire chief recognized for dedication

Tim Armstrong always wanted to be a firefighter and after 36 years of service, he was recognized as Fire Chief of the Year by the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs.

“It’s totally unexpected. It was nice considering it was a cross-Canada award,” Armstrong told the Record. “It’s nice to be recognized by your peers and other community leaders.”

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Armstrong received the award at the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs awards gala on Sept. 20 held in Vancouver. Each year, the association recognizes a handful of fire chiefs for dedication to the fire service.

“It’s really not about one person, it’s all about a team effort. Somebody’s got to lead the team, but it’s all about relationships and collaboration and building your network and having people buy into your vision,” he said.

Armstrong became the chief in New Westminster in 2009 after 29 years with the Vancouver Fire Department. When he came onboard in New West, he had two things in mind – protecting citizens and his members.

“The work that the firefighters do is dangerous, it’s challenging,” he said. “So my vision is about equipping them and training them and giving them every opportunity to be the best they can be at their profession.”

With help from the City of New Westminster, the fire department is improving its access to real-time information on potential dangers on properties before calls, Armstrong noted.

Another issue on the chief’s radar is the growing number of highrises in the city and the challenges that go along with fighting fires in towers.

“The number of firefighters required to fight a highrise fire is more than most municipalities have on duty. So you’re really looking at support from neighbouring communities,” he said.

This week, the City of New Westminster is hosting a forum for developers, fire departments, cities and inspectors about highrises. It’s all part of region-wide plan to come up with a standardized way of responding to towers during emergencies.

“9/11 kind of changed everything. Everybody thought that building couldn’t collapse. We’re seeing more and more natural disasters. You look at the hurricanes that have just come through and flooding and things like that – those are all areas that are on our radar,” he said.

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