Wainfleet fire chief Lee Smith leaves post

Wainfleet fire chief Lee Smith leaves post
Port Colborne Leader

Wainfleet’s interim fire chief Lee Smith, has left his post with the township just a month after he convinced township politicians to approve hiring a deputy chief for the stretched-thin fire department.

In a brief news release issued on Tuesday, new township chief administrative officer William Kolasa announced Smith — who had only served in his post since December — “has opted to pursue other opportunities.”

Smith’s last day was on Tuesday, Kolasa said.

Wainfleet Mayor April Jeffs said in the news release that Smith — a retired Niagara Falls fire chief with a hefty resume — did much in his brief time with the township to set the fire department in a positive direction.

“During his tenure, chief Smith spearheaded tangible steps forward for the department, forging strong bonds with Wainfleet firefighters, township staff and myself, and built relationships with fire departments throughout the region,” she said.

“His knowledge, leadership and dedication to the firefighters and residents of Wainfleet will be missed.”

"Chief Smith has done a phenomenal job," said Jeffs, adding she predicts a smooth transition as a new interim chief takes over to guide the department forward until a permanent candidate can be found.

A special meeting of township council was held Tuesday night at which former Caledon fire chief Brad Bigrigg, current program manager for the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, was named Wainfleet's new interim fire chief.

In March, Smith made it clear to township politicians that he needed help at the senior leadership level of the fire department. Township council had already approved the new deputy chief position at a cost of about $90,000 a year, but subsequently backed off and told Smith he needed to produce another report justifying the need.

He did that, pointing out the department is struggling to keep up the administrative demands for training, records keeping, recruiting volunteers and complying with the vast and ever-growing number and complexity of provincial regulations applied to fire departments in response to lessons learned from deadly or serious fires.

Ald. Betty Konc conceded in March that Smith’s workload is “horrendous.”

"The department has been in disarray for quite a while," she said. "We all know that. That fault lies with council and I must apologize to the community for that. We've made some errors in judgment.”

Smith said at the meeting that he was barely keeping his head above water and noted the department isn’t even meeting minimum requirements to the point where lack of training and other weaknesses mean Wainfleet firefighters can’t even carry out interior firefighting.

<back to Headlines