By Keith Lacey
Special to OsoyoosToday
Dave McMahon’s burning desire to make a new life in Canada and continue his firefighting career has worked out incredibly well as he takes over as the first full-time professional fire chief in Osoyoos.
After a successful start to his career in his native England, McMahon has enjoyed great success since emigrating to Canada in 2007 and he looks forward to yet another challenge in his new position in Osoyoos.
Chief McMahon has spent the past year as the deputy fire chief for the Regional District of Central Kootenay and spent more than a decade before that in Kamloops, where he rose to the rank of assistant chief.
He and his wife Rachel had talked about leaving England and moving to Canada for several years and made the big move 12 years ago, but it took more than three years of paperwork and bureaucracy to finally make their dream come true, said Chief McMahon.
“It was our dream to come to Canada … I was a professional firefighter back in England dating back to when I started in 1994 and worked as a firefighter right up until moving to Canada in 2007,” he said.
He and his wife moved to Sun Peaks in British Columbia upon arriving in Canada and he quickly contacted that community’s fire chief, Bill Stoner, who is currently fire chief in Squamish.
“We became good friends,” he said.
Knowing he wanted to continue his career as a firefighter, Chief McMahon spent several months upgrading his qualifications.
“When you come from another country, whether you’re a doctor or fire chief, you have to requalify … so I just got on with it and within seven months I had the qualifications to get back to my career,” he said. “I was successful in getting into Kamloops Fire and Rescue in 2008.”
Within two years, he was promoted to the position of assistant fire chief (operations) for the City of Kamloops and remained in that position for a decade.
McMahon has worked the past year managing and co-ordinating 18 different fire departments with more than 400 volunteer firefighters across the Central Kootenay region and has enjoyed it immensely, but said the opportunity to become a fire chief in Osoyoos was too good to pass up.
“I saw the job in Osoyoos advertised and it just really sort of jumped out at me,” he said. “I felt it was a great opportunity. I read the Master Fire Plan they had done in the town and I thought this looks interesting.
“I went through the process and the more I learned, the more I continued to be interested and obviously was successful and was offered the job. I’m obviously very proud to be the first paid fire chief in Osoyoos history.”
Outgoing volunteer fire chief Ryan McCaskill has done “a fantastic job” since taking over from longtime chief Rick Jones two years ago and he looks forward to working with McCaskill and the current group of more than 30 volunteer firefighters, said Chief McMahon.
“My job is to come in and take this group on to the next chapter and get the department where it needs to be and ensure as an emergency service provider that we can meet all the needs of the community of Osoyoos,” he said.
Chief McMahon described professional firefighting as a “global village” where hard work and solid training equal success, but admitted firefighting in B.C. does present certain challenges.
The large number of buildings erected using wooden materials differs greatly from the number of old, brick buildings more commonplace in England, he said.
“The skills are the same … but you apply them differently here,” he said. “With the urban interface and the wildland surrounding the buildings here, along with the hot climate, that’s something that’s definitely challenging here in B.C.”