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Fort Smith fire chief to resign
Darren Linaker to leave post after almost 14 years

Paul Bickford
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, September 21, 2011

After almost 14 years at the helm, Darren Linaker is resigning at the end of this month as Fort Smith's fire chief.

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Darren Linaker has been Fort Smith's fire chief for almost 14 years and a member of the town's volunteer department for 21 years in all. - Paul Bickford/NNSL photo

In fact, Linaker is leaving the Fort Smith Volunteer Fire Department altogether after a run of 21 years.

"It's time to do something else," he said. "Let somebody else run the show and I can do something else with my time."

Linaker said he had earlier kicked around the idea of leaving after 20 years.

"My youngest son wanted to join, so I hung around an extra year so I could serve with him," he said. "So all three of my boys were on the department and two of them still are. So that's been great."

Linaker, 50, said having his sons serve on the department has been one of the highlights of his time as chief, along with day-to-day service to the community.

"It's very satisfying," he said. "Yes, there are ups and downs, and some days are not very good days, but generally it's been a very worthwhile endeavour."

However, Linaker explained it is very time-consuming to be a fire chief.

"You're never away from it. Even if I'm out of town, the role and the responsibility is still there," he said. "It's a very all-encompassing role."

The amount of time devoted to the department can vary from a few hours a week to dozens of hours, depending on the time of year and training requirements.

Linaker also said it can be a stressful position.

"The burden of 24/7 starts to add up and, not only do you have to make yourself ready, but the rest of the team and the equipment. It's a concern," he said. "It's not just nine to five a couple of days a week. It's seven days a week, 24 hours a day."

That was just part of what went into his decision to resign, he explained. "It wasn't one thing. It's just a bunch of things have come together."

Linaker wished the department well, noting it is a big part of the community.

"I'm going to miss it for sure and miss the camaraderie," he said. "I think that's what I've going to miss the most."

Linaker said he decided to completely leave the department, because it would not be fair to the existing group if he stayed around.

"I think it would put undue pressure on the new chief," he said.

A new chief will be appointed by Fort Smith town council.

As fire chief, Linaker receives an honorarium of $1,000 a month from the town, although he said no one becomes a volunteer firefighter because of a paycheque.

"It is some type of compensation, but nobody does this type of work because of the huge salary, because there isn't one," he said.

His full-time job is as a telecommunication technician with the forest management section of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Looking back on his time on the fire department, Linaker said the most memorable event was a fire at Pelican Rapids Inn in 1997.

"That kind of stands out," he said, noting it was the biggest fire in the history of the town.

Linaker, who was deputy chief at the time, commanded the response to the fire.

"It was exhausting," he said of fighting the blaze, which destroyed about three-quarters of the hotel.

Linaker is leaving the department with what he describes as a good roster of firefighters.

"I think we've got a well-balanced core group of well-trained people," he said, adding the department also has excellent equipment.

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