Nanaimo hires first career female fire chief on Vancouver Island


From dispatcher to Vancouver Island’s first female career fire chief. Karen Fry started out in Nanaimo’s fire department in 1999. Now she joins the growing ranks of women working and leading, in the industry. Mary Griffin reports.

On Vancouver Island, most firefighters are men but Nanaimo now has the Island’s first female fire chief, Karen Fry.

“It’s an honour. It’s not something I generally think about too much when I’m in the role,” Fry said.

She started her career in the Nanaimo as a dispatcher in 1999 and is the now the first female career fire chief on Vancouver Island.

“There’s a lot of women that are leading fire departments across B.C. And most of those are in volunteer departments in smaller communities,” Fry said.  “And they’ve been doing it for years, and years.”

Metchosin’s fire chief, Stephanie Dunlop, oversees a department of 36 members, comprised of volunteers and professional firefighters.

“Congratulations to [Fry] for getting that role. It’s a large department. It’s career staff,” Dunlop said.

Dunlop started fighting fires more than twenty years ago in Peaceland.

She started in the department as a volunteer and was promoted to chief nine years ago.

She agrees the industry is changing.

“The first thing someone said to me when I joined in Peaceland, is I asked, are there any females? And they said no. I said, why not? Because they can’t cut it.  OK. That’s when I got in there,” Dunlop said with a smile. “And loved it.”

Woman make up less than four percent of all firefighters in Canada.

But Fry and Dunlop are among a number of female firefighters on Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, in both career and volunteer positions.

“It’s really about bringing the fire service forward. It’s changed a lot in the last twenty years. We’re progressive. We’re dynamic,” Fry said.

And that dynamic is changing the face of fire departments around the islands.

Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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