Former Markham fire chief puts out firefighter heist novel set in Manhattan

Former Markham fire chief Donald McClean made the best out of the COVID-19 pandemic to pen a firefighter thriller novel.

His debut novel, “Where There’s Smoke,” tells the story of four firefighters who attempt to rob a wealthy New York real estate magnate to bring some sort of karmic payback.

Readers will get an inside look at the life of firefighters, and ride along with a thrilling heist story set in Manhattan, where McClean currently resides with his wife and two children and finds a bright firehouse red door that inspires him.

“Whenever the fire trucks were on the street, I would stop and ask some questions about firefighting in the city,” McClean told

“I heard about a lot of anger in the city and a lot of unusual and chaotic things happening,” said McClean. “Uncharacteristic behaviour was being observed that would not have happened before COVID struck. It was a perfect time to wander through the city and observe everything in person and sit down and write the book.”

In the fictional novel, McClean builds a firefighter world based on his own personal experience combined with the stories he heard on the streets. The experience of New York City comes from his wanderings throughout the city.

“During the height of COVID, things were very unusual in the city. Streets were empty, Times Square was empty, stores were closed, crime spiked.”

McClean served as a firefighter in Markham for 22 years, ending his career in 2008 following a six-year stint as fire chief. He went on to earn his law degree from Osgoode Hall Law School and practised sports law for 10 years until he moved to New York.

“I have great memories from my time as a firefighter and fire chief in Markham,” he said. “I started when I was young and at the time firefighters still rode on the back step of the truck. It was an exciting job and I worked with wonderful people.”

McClean recalls that he became fire chief at a time when the department was undergoing big changes as growth started to accelerate in the city. “I was part of the planning process that determined where all the new fire stations would be built, the types of trucks we would have and purchasing the most modern and safe equipment and facilities.”

“The people of Markham are great, and I couldn’t think of a better place to be a firefighter (except maybe New York City),” he said.

According to the author, “Where There’s Smoke” is filled with humour and action in the spirit of “Ocean’s 11.” The book is available for purchase on Amazon.


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