Flame goes out for Vancouver fire chief

Post by Daniel Fontaine in


Vancouver's top firefighter has called it quits. There were rumours swirling about this for weeks and now we can confirm it's official.

Ray Holdgate will be packing it in after 35 years on the job. He is one of the nicest guys you could ever meet and Vancouver has lost one of its best public servants. His rocky relationship with the Vancouver Firefighter's Union...well, not so hot. We'll have more to report on that in the coming days.

So the body count rises by one. The City of Vancouver recently lost its City Manager, Deputy City Manager and now the Fire Chief. It is expected that within weeks another big shoe is about to drop...stay tuned for that one, it will knock your socks off.

Here is a copy of the email sent out by City Manager Penny Ballem:

From: Ballem, Penny

Sent: Tuesday, February 24, 2009 5:22 PM

To: Robertson, G; Anton, Suzanne; Cadman, David; Chow, George; Deal, Heather; Jang, Kerry; Louie, Raymond; Meggs, Geoff; Reimer, Andrea; Stevenson, Tim; Woodsworth, Ellen

Cc: Corporate Management Team (COV) - DL; Au, Wendy; Coulson, Marg; Fast, Roger; Hui, Tony; Kay, Monica; CMT Admin Assts - DL

Subject: Retirement of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Sevices General Manager, Ray Holdgate

Importance: High

After 35 years of service, the General Manager of Vancouver Fire and Rescue Services, Fire Chief Ray Holdgate, has announced his retirement effective May 1, 2009.

Chief Holdgate has held the position since 1998. He worked his way up through the organization from a firefighter to a training officer, Assistant Fire Chief and then Fire Chief.

Among other accomplishments, Chief Holdgate was involved in the development of Vancouver’s Emergency Salt Water Pumping System for earthquake preparedness, and E-Comm, the City of Vancouver Emergency Operations Centre and Emergency Services dispatch facility.

Retirement plans include spending time with his grandchildren and sailing in the Gulf Islands. (Yahoo!!)

I want to thank Ray for his tremendous contribution to the City and VFRS over the last 35 years, and I know everyone will join me in wishing him a happy, healthy retirement.

I also want to thank Deputy Chief John McKearney for agreeing to take on the Acting Chief position while we complete a search.

Penny Ballem, MD, FRCP
City Manager
tel: 604.873.7626
fax: 604.873.7641


Is there more behind the retirement other than simply wanting to retire after 35 years of service? Sailing in the Gulf Islands sounds like fun.

Body Count?
What is unusual about someone retiring after 35 years?
Probably has reached maximum pension so why work for peanuts.
Of course politico's are accustomed to short times in high places.

It's nice of people to assume that after a long career it was just time to leave. However, Vancouver's biggest show is less than 12 months away. Our emergency services departments are going to be a big part of that show, including the various leaders of these departments.

If you had worked somewhere more than half your life, had risen to the top job, would you quit just months before a showcase event? I think it begs a few questions personally.

Perhaps he doesn't want to be involved in that security nightmare during the Olympics. He's leaving in plenty of time for a new leader to learn the ropes.

But if you guys have any other information that leads you to believe this is something other than just a retirement, let's hear it!

Everyone knows the firefighters union big wigs wanted the chief gone. Just look at the number of grievances Roddy filed and lost. I have no doubt they told Vision and Gregory they'd rather see the back side of him. He was a great guy, we're all going to miss him.

maybe he truly wants to spend more time with his family. Maybe he is one of those early retirement opportunities, maybe he rather take his pension and come back as a consultant when he feels like it and only if he feels like it.

does not seem like rocket science to me.

Peanuts? He was on $170k a year, according to The Sun.

Another memo, again from Penny,
Carefully worded, opaque gem,
More expected, wonder how many,
New style here, called Ballem.

Good guy gone, we're told, splat,
Untold story, like silken purse,
Advice here, 'don't Rogers that',
Things are bad, they'll be worse.

Who shot the Manager and Deputy,
Unanswered here, fire still burning,
Who's the fourth, above is three,
Council still, in curve learning.

Hey,,this is quite hilarious reading the attempted spin here on this one..I have worked for the dept for a number of years and yes the chief is a very nice guy...the comments about the union spin and roddys lost grievances?? lets see the facts...local 18 has won 96% of its grievances that practically all went to arbritration for reasons that were above the office of the fire chief....city hall level before the election changes....as some of us understand it, his contract was up and yes after 35yrs in the dept it is absolutely normal for most guys to retire (chief or not) for many reasons including family and health...The City Caucus spin here is more than obvious from my perspective...and the email from the city mgr is totally normal protocol / congratulations etc...for a retiring manager...I'll check in for to see more of your comments to see what else needs to be corrected...and at the same time wish him an enjoyable retirement.....

If you consider he can stay home collect 70% of his salary as Pension to continue working is peanuts.

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