A former Beaumont fire chief is coming to St. Albert to head the city’s fire department.
Everett Cooke, who began work as St. Albert’s fire chief on Sept. 13, worked as a fire chief in Beaumont for a total of four years. Prior to that, he served as fire chief with the County of Grand Prairie regional fire services.
Cooke has worked in fire service for 20 years. The father of three said he became passionate about firefighting during his time in the Town of Sexsmith, outside of Grand Prairie.
“Being able to help others in the community and provide emergency services to residents is what drew me to the profession,” said Cooke.
Cooke said he loves being able to work with a range of staff, both those on the floor and in administration, to achieve their goals and get their jobs done safely and effectively.
“When I’m able to lead a team and the team is able to achieve goals set out by the municipality, that’s rewarding for me,” Cooke said.
Looking back on his career, Cooke said he’s particularly proud of successfully expanding a volunteer service the County of Grand Prairie had in place to a full-time composite fire service, which served more than 5,500 square kilometres.
The expansion included the addition of two full-time stations, and several full-time staff, as well as the procurement of required equipment to deliver the services to residents.
“We completed that in under two years, and it’s still in place today,” Cooke said. “I’m very proud of that achievement.”
Beforehand, Cooke said residents were “suffering” when they would have a fire.
“In the end, it really provided a better service to residents,” Cooke said of the expansion.
He added he believes there are still more highlights to come as he continues working.
Hire follows turbulence
Cooke’s appointment to the position of fire chief comes on the heels of a period of controversy in St. Albert’s fire department.
In February of 2021, former Chief Bernd Gretzinger stepped down amid complaints that two of the city’s fire chiefs allegedly received their COVID-19 vaccines ahead of front-line staff.
After Gretzinger left his position, his temporary replacement Scott Wilde also stepped down following a non-confidence vote in June.
Cooke said his focus stepping into the new position will be on “looking forward.”
“I’m not going to spend much time on what has happened in the past,” Cooke said. “My focus will be on leading emergency services, and the emergency services team, forward from this point on.”
Stepping into the role of fire chief is something Cooke sees not just as an opportunity for himself, but for the entire fire department to work together, he said.
“I’m very excited. I’ll be taking a strategic look at the emergency services department over the course of the coming weeks and months, and that will allow me a solid understanding of St. Albert’s operations,” Cooke said.
“I’m very excited to join the St. Albert team."