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Municipal 2018
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Town of Erin hires former Inuvik fire chief

by Olivia Rutt

ERIN -  Former Inuvik, Northwest Territories Fire Chief Jim Sawkins will take over as fire chief in Erin, the town announced on Feb. 20.

After what the town called a “lengthy recruitment process,” Sawkins will replace former Fire Chief Dan Callaghan, who retired in December.

“He will add value to our efforts to move the community forward and ensure that our Fire and Emergency Services are future-ready,” said Mayor Allan Alls in a press release.

Sawkins worked as a fire chief in three communities and had a 20-year career as a military firefighter.

His January departure from Inuvik was controversial, according to numerous CBC articles, though town officials never offered an official explanation for his departure.

The CBC reported that two Inuvik firefighters resigned in 2017, citing Sawkins’ leadership as the cause.

One of those firefighters quit immediately following a fire that reignited after the department had left a scene, destroying a home.

Sawkins called the situation “complicated” in an interview with the Advertiser.

“A handful of individuals does not make or break a leader,” he said.

“I was brought in to do a job here, which I was brought in (for) in my previous locations as well: to build and reorganize the fire department and that’s basically what I did here.”

He added the feeling of lost confidence was not “stereotypical of the entire department.”

Previously, Sawkins was fired from Muskoka Lakes, where he worked from 2004 to 2010.

According to a local newspaper, The Muskoka Region, CAO Walt Schmid said council was “looking for a different management direction for the fire department.”

But Sawkins’ dismissal sparked outrage from firefighters, who protested the decision. Sawkins said he had no prior knowledge of the protest.

“I stood up in council, and I told them quite clearly, that when the firefighters do something good, it’s the firefighters. I said when the fire fighters do something wrong, the buck stops with me,” he told the Advertiser.

“I’m the leader, I take full responsibility. Though I knew nothing about it, I take full responsibility.”

Sawkins said his departures from the Inuvik and Muskoka Lakes were discussed in his hiring process with Erin officials.

“They weren’t directly asked of me, but in my talks before I was hired, there was discussion at that time - not during the interview process,” he said.

He added his motivation for transferring to Erin is to move closer to family.

The position in Erin is not full time, and that is something Sawkins is okay with.

“I had a number of offers coming out of Inuvik ... I wanted that one, I love the area,” he said.

“I believe that I can help the firefighters and the officers and move the department forward in the future.”

Sawkins will officially take over as Erin fire chief on March 12.

Erin CAO Nathan Hyde refused to answer any Wellington Advertiser questions on the phone and did not reply by the newspaper’s press deadline to questions sent by email.

March 2, 2018


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