Lake Louise fire chief becomes first woman elected to national chief association

Longtime Lake Louise Fire Chief Keri Martens adds another trailblazing milestone to her career — first woman elected to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs board.

'Diversity and inclusion within the fire service is my main focus,' Keri Martens says

Keri Martens is the first woman elected to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs board. (Submitted by Keri Martens)

The longtime Lake Louise fire chief can add another trailblazing milestone to her career.

Keri Martens, who's been chief for about 15 years, has been elected to the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs board and she's the first woman to earn that honour.

"Diversity and inclusion within the fire service is my main focus," Martens told The Homestretch on Monday.

"Every Canadian that wants to be in the fire service should have the opportunity to try to get there. Once they get here, we need figure out ways to make it better for them to be here."

Martens says she joined Lake Louise Fire Rescue after some friends thought it might be a good fit.

"I was looking for an opportunity to give back to my community and not a lot of opportunities to do that in Lake Louise, as far as clubs and organizations. Some friends were on the department here at the time and suggested it might be something that I'd like to participate in. Within a few practices I was hooked," she explained.

Martens says for the first three years she served as a volunteer, but during that time, she decided it was the career she wanted.

That was about 15 years ago, but the enjoyment of the work continues to burn brightly.

"It's the feeling of being down at the hall, the atmosphere, the environment of participating and learning skills that would be useful to help myself and others. It's hard to explain. It's just something that you discover you have a passion for and that takes over."

In a profession that has historically been dominated by men, Martens says she's been lucky.

"There's been comments over the years, and looks and suggestions, but nothing as far as physical harassment or anything like that," she says.

"I have been fortunate I think."

She's recently accepted the position of deputy chief with Canmore Fire-Rescue. She starts next month.

"You go to work every day and you never know what's going to happen," Martens says.

"Some days are average and some days are maybe a little bit boring but then something usually happens that changes all of that."

When Keri Martens signed up to be a firefighter in Lake Louise more than 15 years ago, she didn't expect to be a trailblazer. Today she is the fire chief in that community, one of only a handful of female fire chiefs in the country. Now she is the first woman to be elected to the board of the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. Host Rob Brown reached Keri Martens on the line from Lake Louise. 6:52

With files from The Homestretch