British Columbia

Vancouver fire chief leaves role to spend time with family after leading city's COVID-19 task force

Darrell Reid worked 43 straight days on the COVID-19 task force and when he finally took a break and had time to visit his wife and kids in Alberta, realized that's where he wanted to be full time.

Darrell Reid has taken new job as chief commissioner for Strathcona County, Alta.

Former Vancouver fire chief Darrell Reid was appointed to the role in June 2017 and has now taken a new position as chief commissioner for Strathcona County in Alberta, where he can live full time with his wife and four children rather than commuting. (City of Vancouver)

Darrell Reid, the former chief of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services and the head of the City of Vancouver's COVID-19 task force has taken a new job on the other side of the Rockies.

Reid, who took the reins as chief in Vancouver in 2017, is now the chief commissioner for Strathcona County, just outside of Edmonton, Alta. In that position, he will guide and advise the county council on legislation and municipal operations.

But for Reid, it's not so much the job on the other side of the mountains that was the pull — but the opportunity to live in the same home as his wife and four kids who, for the past few years, have had a father who lived in B.C. during the week and was home in Wild Rose Country on weekends.

And when the pandemic hit, those weekend visits were no longer possible. Not only were the travel logistics made more challenging, but Reid was required in B.C. full time to lead the city's task force, something he did for 43 days straight before getting the opportunity to check in in person on his own family.

Reid hit the road the minute he could and 14 hours later he was in at his family's Alberta home. He said his wife had known he was en route, but the rest of the family had been kept in the dark.

After he pulled into the driveway, he FaceTimed his kids, ages 9, 11, 13 and 15.

"I gave them some options for when they could see me, one of them was right now," said Reid Monday on The Early Edition. "The next minute, that was one of the highlights of my life." 

Reid then made the decision to have more of those minutes.


Beautiful, but complicated

But his time in Vancouver, he said, has some highlights of its own.

He described overseeing the pandemic task force, aside from the obvious exhaustion and stress, as an "amazing, exciting experience," during which he witnessed incredible commitment and team building among the city's first responders.

Reid, who worked in Toronto before Vancouver, said the city was the most beautiful place he had ever lived, but also possibly the most complicated.

"With the opioid crisis, with that complicated mix of mental health issues, and homelessness and economic disparity and diversity, Vancouver has a lot of things that you need to be aware of and understand."

He said his hope for the city is that some of the approaches taken during the pandemic to help marginalized communities access resources be applied outside of the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

"My wish is that lessons learned from the global response and the energy behind the response, helps move forward solutions to some of those issues faster," said Reid. "Although great steps have been taken in the direction of mitigating and solving aspects of them, there's still so much work to do."

The city has not yet announced Reid's replacement. Applications for the position closed Sept. 27.

To hear the complete interview with Darrell Reid on The Early Edition, tap here.

With files from The Early Edition

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