David Ward quietly retired as Esquimalt fire chief earlier this month, leaving the position open for an indefinite period of time, Mayor Barb Desjardins has confirmed.
“He felt it was time and wanted to spend more time with his family,” Desjardins said. Ward sent a letter to city management in early February, announcing his retirement for personal reasons effective Feb. 5.
“We all make our decisions and we wish him well,” Desjardins said, adding the municipality will not look for a new chief until other issues are dealt with.
“We have a lot on our plates right now.”
Ward and the union representative at the fire department could not be reached Wednesday. Deputy fire chief Ray Saurette declined to comment.
Ward became Esquimalt fire chief in June 2010 after 35 years at the Saanich department, including seven as chief.
At the time, Desjardins heralded Ward’s hiring as a new beginning for the department, which had been marred by a 2009 audit describing it as a toxic workplace where sick leave and overtime were a growing concern.
Ward’s tenure with the Esquimalt fire department had its bumps.
In August 2011, he defended an assistant fire chief who was issued a 90-day driving ban for drinking and driving while off-duty.
A month later, Ward was named in a human-rights tribunal complaint against the fire department and municipality by a firefighter claiming racial discrimination and harassment in the workplace. The matter was resolved with mediation and a settlement.
But Ward has also been credited for an innovative approach to emergency response.
In 2012, Esquimalt became one of the first fire departments to use iPads in trucks, putting building plans, procedures, maps and recording devices at the fingertips of on-scene firefighters.
In addition to being a firefighter, Ward served on the executive board of the Victoria Shamrocks lacrosse club for more than 20 years.