Windsor·Q&A

Q&A: Chatham-Kent fire chief Chris Case on moving to Canada, the job and his experience

Chris Case is a month into his new job as the fire chief in Chatham-Kent and says it was the welcome his family received in the region that's convinced him to stay. 
Chris Case is a month into his new job as the fire chief in Chatham-Kent and says it was the welcome his family received in the region that's convinced him to stay. (LinkedIn)

Chris Case is a month into his new job as the fire chief in Chatham-Kent and says it was the welcome his family received in the region that's convinced him to stay. 

He spoke with Windsor Morning's Tony Doucette about the job and his background. 

How did you become a firefighter?

I always wanted to be a firefighter from a very young age. I used to chase the fire truck on my little bike. After leaving school and becoming a millwright, I still had the dream and I was lucky enough to achieve that just after my 21st birthday. 

You have experience that is not typical of a firefighter. What have you done in your career?

It's been interesting, lets put it that way. I spent quite a long time on the fire trucks and then moved into what would be called special operations. I moved into the police [force] and did a lot of work on explosives and some arson and fire investigation. Then I had the chance of travelling the world, talking about some of my experiences. I was able to work in Europe, in America and I also spent quite a bit of time in Canada.

Did you also do some work in counter-terrorism?

I did quite a bit of training in that, some quite interesting stuff ... but I'm not [able to talk about] a great deal of it.

I also spent time as a magistrate ... I did that for nearly 10 years to try and support my career. I was trying to look for a new way of expanding my horizons.

Given that, what led to your move to Canada?

It was a moment when I was talking to my wife and we decided we wanted something better. I had been all over the world and saw how other people lived and we decided it was time for a change. Canada was the only place I would ever consider moving to. In 2015 I was lucky enough to be invited to become an assistant fire chief in Chatham-Kent. 

We decided we wanted something better.- Chris Case, Chatham-Kent fire chief

What ultimately led to your decision to stay?

I have to say it was the welcome. We arrived and were immediately made to feel welcome, which is very, very Chatham-Kent. The local community, the councillors, the people who serve the municipality ... they really made us feel welcome. Within a couple of weeks we were beginning to realize ... why would we want to leave this wonderful place? We bought a house, put down roots. 

The children were immensely happy in school, really settled. We've never regretted it to this day. 

How does being a firefighter in Canada compare to being a firefighter in England?

It's strange because the basic concepts of putting water on fires and the fire goes out is pretty much international. But some of the terminology ... some of the terms just completely amused my colleagues. I brought quite a lot of community safety knowledge from the U.K.

Has your accent created any issues?

Very much so. In the first couple of months I was quite entertaining on the radio. I do sometimes have to concentrate on certain words. The language has been interesting ... it's definitely two countries separated by a common language. 

You came from England to take a job that many Canadian firefighters certainly coveted. How have you been received where that is concerned?

I have not had a single issue. There was a little bit of social media feedback and I have had some robust discussions with people in the past, but I fought for this job fair and square. 

Chief Crawford was fundamental in changing the culture of recruitment. At the moment all our assistant chiefs are internal candidates from Chatham. We have many more people who are looking to come up through the ranks. That's something that we are immensely proud of, that we've changed the way things are. But I have not had a single negative comment because a firefighter is a firefighter. It's been humbling. 

Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Listen to the full interview on Windsor Morning:

The new fire chief in Chatham-Kent has been a firefighter for about thirty years. And you may be surprised at what else Chris Case has done. 9:35

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