As Darby Allen moves on, Fort McMurray names new fire chief
'I'm confident that I will be leaving our fire department in good hands'
As the man who led the battle against 'the Beast' moves on, Fort McMurray has named its new fire chief.
Jody Butz, assistant deputy chief for regional emergency services, will become the new fire chief for the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo.
Butz, who fought last May's ferocious wildfire from the front lines, will take over the position on Feb. 27.
The announcement comes after outgoing chief Darby Allen, 59, announced his retirement in December. Friday will be his last day on the job.
"It's been a pleasure to work closely with Jody, who played a key leadership role in the regional emergency operations centre during last year's wildfire," Allen said in a statement.
"Jody's experience in Wood Buffalo, as well as in rural and volunteer firefighting, is an asset for our fire department. I'm confident that I will be leaving our fire department in good hands."
In the biggest evacuation in Alberta history, the fire forced nearly 90,000 people from their homes, and left entire neighbourhoods in ruins.
In the thick of the disaster, Allen dubbed the wildfire "the Beast" for its merciless unpredictability.
Butz was also instrumental in the fight against the wildfire. In the first 24 hours, he and Allen and the teams they commanded fought without much outside help.
A member of regional emergency services since 2001, Butz has held several positions within the organization.
He was also active during the 2013 flooding in Fort McMurray, and has worked as a co-ordinator and instructor for Keyano College's EMT program.
'It's just time for me to move on'
For his part, Allen said it's time to step back and spend more time with his family.
He said his wife, Maria, has osteoporosis and frigid northern Alberta winters have been tough on her. Allen, who has two sons in their 30s, said he'd always planned to retire at 60 and will leave his job about five months ahead of that milestone birthday.
"I'm not going to take a full-time job again in any kind of fire role," he said in an interview last December. "I've just got some different opportunities that we're going to look at.
"It's just time for me to move on and get on with the next phase of my life and give my full attention to my lovely wife."
With files from the Canadian Press