After a search that spanned fire departments across North America, the City of Whitehorse has selected a new fire chief – and as it turns out, he’s a Yukoner. Current deputy fire chief Kevin Lyslo will step up to replace longtime fire chief Clive Sparks.
Lyslo was born and raised in the Yukon, and joined the fire department as a volunteer in 1994 – 20 years ago “almost to the day,” he said. He became a career firefighter in 1998, and in the last few years he has worked his way up through a variety of leadership positions, from captain to platoon chief to deputy fire chief.
Not long after being named deputy fire chief, Lyslo also took on new duties as acting fire chief. That role gave him a chance to consider if he would eventually be interested in the top position.
“It gave me a really good opportunity to see if I liked it, see if I felt like I could do it, see how the members of the department felt about it,” he said. “During that time I decided I didn’t mind the job at all, and one day wouldn’t mind taking it on, not realizing it would be this soon.”
After years of shift work, the stability of the position appealed too. Lyslo’s three children are “getting to the teenage years,” he said, “and it would be nice to be at home and doing things with them when they’re at home. That was another big reason that I looked at the deputy fire chief’s job originally and then the chief’s job.”
Sparks, the outgoing fire chief, has been a fixture in Whitehorse firefighting since 1969, when he joined the Porter Creek fire department as a volunteer, and replacing him was a tall order.
“I was kind of shaking in my boots a little bit,” said Mayor Dan Curtis. “When you lose someone of Fire Chief Sparks’ calibre and ability and knowledge, and not only knowledge but the corporate knowledge over the last 40 years of the city of Whitehorse, it’s a daunting task.”
The opening spurred applications from firefighters across Canada and the United States, but in the end it was Lyslo who most impressed the hiring committee.
“It was wonderful to see Kevin rise above the rest,” said Curtis. “He did really, really well with the interview process, and obviously he’s got a proven ability and a proven respect within the fire hall as well.”
According to Lyslo, his fellow members were also a motivating factor in his decision to apply for the chief’s job. “Right now this department is full of career and volunteer firefighters that are very, very motivated, they’re an excellent bunch of people to work with,” he said. “And to have the privilege of leading that and to be involved with that is tremendous.”
“He’s really dedicated his life to this profession,” Curtis added. “We couldn’t be happier that he was chosen. We’re just delighted to have him.”