Enterprise, N.W.T. selects a new fire chief, and she’s 22

Debra Richards is still in training to become a firefighter, but that didn’t stop the 14 members of the Enterprise Fire Department from nominating her as chief last week.

‘I have no doubts in myself,’ Richards says. ‘I'd do what I need to do to save a life if I need to’

Enterprise, N.W.T. selects a new fire chief 2:10

The new fire chief in the Enterprise, N.W.T. says she’s ready to take on a big job.  

“I’m kind of really excited about it and I’m glad that they put enough trust in me to take this position on,” says 22-year-old Debra Richards.

  • LISTEN: Debra Richards speaks with Loren McGinnis on The Trailbreaker (link on the left)

Richards has some big boots to fill, especially seeing as she isn't even a firefighter yet.

"That's the thing that scared me the most is the guys comin’ in here, ‘Oh she knows nothing.’"

But that's not what happened.

Richards grew up in Enterprise. She works as a special needs Kindergarten assistant, something she refers to as “her calling.” She just started teaching at the end of November, and started volunteering with the Enterprise Fire Department in December.  

Last week, the 14 members of the Enterprise Fire Department nominated Richards as Executive Fire Chief, a volunteer position.

The hamlet council voted in favour.

"We all kind of talked about it,” she says. “They all have my back and know where I'm at as far as experience goes.”

Matthew Gauthier is deputy chief and has been a member of the department for about four years.

He says some people were against the selection, but says Richards is a good candidate because she works close to town and has the time to commit to the job.

“We have faith in her and as long as we all work together and fill in all the little black and gray areas, everything should go smoothly."

Mayor John Leskiw says he's taking his cues from the fire department.

"They're the ones who suggested her and voted her in,” Leskiw says. “If they're going to support her, she'll get my support as well."

Leskiw also says he likes Richards’ passion, and the fact that she has a lot of time to dedicate to the job.

"It kind of made sense to have a well-trained fire department than a well-trained fire chief."

As chief, Richards will be in charge of dealing with most of the department’s paperwork.

She'll also make sure volunteer firefighters get the training they need. 

She will do some basic training over the summer, and will attend the Fire Chief’s conference in Yellowknife.

"I have no doubts in myself,” Richards says. “I'd do what I need to do to save a life if I need to.”