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MacCharles selected to succeed 36 year veteran Simon Grypma as new City Fire Chief

Nelson Daily Staff
By Nelson Daily Staff
October 22nd, 2014

The City of Nelson has found the man to fill some very big boots at Nelson’s famously historic Fire Hall.

Calgarian Len MacCharles, who has worked in the Calgary Fire Department since 1981, will be at the helm of Nelson Fire and Rescue, as of November 17.

“We were very impressed with the knowledge and the initiative that Len has shown throughout his career,” says Nelson City Manager Kevin Cormack in a written statement.

MacCharles, with almost 35 years in the Operations Department as a firefighter, is taking over from retiring Chief Simon Grypma, who’s been with the department 36 years, since finding his career niche in life at the age of 19 after his first visit to the department (and a spur-of-the-moment slide down the hall’s brass pole.)

The 57-year-old Grypma has been the chief since 2008.

MacCharles held numerous positions with the Calgary Fire Department including Legal Resource Officer, Deputy Chief Community Services, Acting Fire Chief/Director Emergency Management, Executive Officer, Deputy Chief Operations, Deputy Chief Emergency Management and most recently Deputy Chief Operations, Effectiveness, Efficiency and Evaluation, where he was responsible for 1,300 fire fighters.

In addition to his hands-on experience, MacCharles has a Masters Certificate in Municipal Leadership, a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and Society and Certified Emergency Manager Designation.

“We’re very fortunate to have found such a highly qualified individual to fill the very big shoes of our retiring chief,” Cormack says, adding that Grypma will be working with MacCharles on the transition.

MacCharles was named the Incident Commander in the aftermath of the firestorm that swept through Slave Lake in May 2011 – at the time, Canada’s costliest disaster.

Pegged at $700 million, the fire destroyed one third of Slave Lake including 374 properties in and around the town, leaving 732 residents homeless.

Cormack says he was particularly impressed with the Calgary fire victim initiative MacCharles championed after a fatal house fire in the Alberta city a few years ago.

“Len created a program that supported families involved in tragedies like the one in this particular fatality, where the actual fire fighters who respond to the blaze could later help folks cope with their loss,” Cormack said.

“Now, that program has been implemented for all fires in Calgary, where responding fire fighters take an active role in providing support for affected families.”

MacCharles, one of 39 applicants for the job, is taking the reigns of one of the
province’s oldest fire departments – Nelson Fire and Rescue celebrated its 100th anniversary last year.

Cormack says the incoming Chief has already had a chance to meet a number of the City of Nelson’s firefighters, tour the hall and the City, and review operational plans.

“Len was extremely impressed with the professionalism of the fire department,” Cormack explained. “It’s a credit to Chief Grypma that Len will inherit such a high-functioning Fire and Rescue service.”

Responding to roughly 1,000 calls per year, Nelson Fire and Rescue consists of a Chief, Assistant Chief, three Captains, six firefighters, and a secretary-dispatcher, and 21 auxiliary firefighters.

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