BY ERIN FAWCETT
Lacombe’s fire chief not only has a passion for his career, but he has a passion for the community as well.
Ed van Delden has been the City’s fire chief for the past three and a half years.
“I started as a volunteer. I started in the Town of Devon when I was 21. The fire chief in Devon at the time wouldn’t allow anyone to join unless they were married. You had to be male and married,” he said. “I was married at 21 and I was running a mechanic shop – I am a mechanic by trade. There is a synergy in that the fire engines are a mechanical piece of equipment.
“I developed a passion for it.”
van Delden did not initially plan to make a career out of firefighting. He worked at Dow Chemical as a process operator for 27 years. “The plant I was working in was reducing in size. There was a need for the site to reconfigure how they deliver emergency services – they had their own brigade and they asked me to lead in that effort.”
Eventually, van Delden’s passion for volunteers and wanting to be in a close location to his family in the Edmonton area brought him to Lacombe three and a half years ago.
“What have I enjoyed the most over my career? I have always had a passion for volunteers,” he said. “They bring so much. You don’t have to motivate them, they are here because of free choice. As a leader, that is always a challenge – how to get people to want to get up on Monday morning and go. That is never an issue with volunteers.”
van Delden said there is also a lot of sacrifice for his family to allow him to do the job that he does – especially on his wife’s part.
“I’m from a large family and we take turns at Christmas in steering the Christmas get together. We rent a hall – I have nine siblings. It was my turn, which really then was my wife’s turn, to organize it,” he laughed. “As luck would have it at 7 a.m. that morning we got a call for a house fire out in the County. It was -30C – it was a very cold day and I took the only car that we had that was plugged in. I left her with our four girls, with a car that wouldn’t start and Christmas dinner and preparations to coordinate,” he recalled of one of the many sacrifices his family has made.
van Delden said there is much that he likes about being part of the Lacombe community.
“I love the people in Lacombe and I love the broader opportunity to work regionally – there is a stronger relationship here between other communities. I think that builds bench strength.”
He added there are many aspects of his career that are rewarding.
“I enjoy the people. It goes both ways – I always say what keeps me up at night are the people and what I enjoy the most is the people,” he said. “There is opportunity to put yourself in harm’s way and I absolutely am terrified of having to go to someone’s door someday and having to say Mary or John or whoever is not coming home or is at the hospital – I’m absolutely terrified of that.
“But the other side is to get an alarm and see us be challenged in some new way and to see the guys overcome those challenges makes me feel good. At the end of the day most of us feel good about knowing that we really helped.”
Meanwhile, van Delden credits the success of the City’s fire department to the dedicated volunteers. There is generally about 35 volunteer firefighters with the department.
“I think the facts speak for themselves. Rather than having the number of volunteers, I use performance indicators such as how many respond to calls,” he said. “It’s amazing how well attended our practices are, how many people get up at 2 a.m. to respond to a carbon monoxide alarm, things like that.
“When we get a complaint of someone saying they smell something at 2 a.m., we only really need to send a truck, which is six to eight people and we’ll go and check it out. I’m really expecting only those six or eight people to show<span class="Apple-