Huntsville/Lake Of Bays Fire Department Welcomes New Chief

Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Chief Rob Collins. Photo courtesy of Rob Collins
Huntsville/Lake of Bays Fire Chief Rob Collins. Photo courtesy of Rob Collins

The Huntsville/Lake of Bays (HLOB) Fire Department welcomed new Fire Chief Rob Collins on Sept. 21, allowing former chief Steve Hernen to focus on his role as director of operations and protective services.

Hernen took on both roles back in 2016 to help cover the town’s operational needs while keeping costs low. It was a temporary measure, said Huntsville’s chief administrative officer Denise Corry, with the plan of appointing a new chief as part of 2020’s budget. The Town of Huntsville posted the job listing for chief at the beginning of the year, but the hiring process was delayed until July due to the pandemic. Once the process resumed, Collins stood out as someone with the right experience and leadership skills to take on the role, Corry said, including experience with a composite department like HLOB that is made up of both volunteer and full-time firefighters. 

“He just seemed like a very good fit for our organization,” she said. “Any of the references that we received, it was quite evident that if we were to proceed with hiring Rob that he would certainly serve our community well.”

Collins had his first day on Sept. 21 and his appointment as fire chief will be made official in council on Sept. 28. Collins is fortunate to be leading such a great team, Corry said, and it’s a team that’s eager to work with him.

“We are very fortunate to have him as part of our team with his experience,” Corry said. “I think he is going to really enjoy his time here, and I think he’s coming into a really solid foundation to set him up for success as fire chief.”

Collins attended Loyalist College as well as the Ontario Fire College and now holds diplomas as a training officer, company officer, medical responder and adult education facilitator. He started his career as a volunteer firefighter in Tyendinaga Township in 1991, and since then he’s served in a number of roles, including fire chief for Port Hope and the Town of the Blue Mountains.

Rob Collins receiving a Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal in 2012. Photo courtesy of the Municipality of Port Hope Fire and Emergency Services

In 2012, while serving as fire chief for Port Hope, Collins received the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal, a federal award to honour Canadian fire service members that have provided 20 years of exemplary service. For Collins, another highlight came during his time as Blue Mountains fire chief.

“The highlight there was bringing that department from a volunteer department to a composite department with unionized full-time staff and negotiating that first contract there for the union local,” he said. “It was a fairly big deal to make that shift, and we were able to negotiate the contracts such that it didn’t mess up the whole culture of the organization. We were able to keep operating as we always had, and we had a really good relationship with both the volunteer complement and the union.”

Collins said he’s familiar with Muskoka as a tourist and has existing connections with the HLOB Fire Department, so when he saw the opening for fire chief, it appealed to him as a position that fit well with his knowledge and experience. He said he’s looking forward to living and working in the area and making sure the department maintains the level of service that locals have always been able to expect.

“It’s always exciting to join a new organization and I bring with me a vision of what a fire service should look like for a community of this size,” Collins said.”I know that this department is already sort of moving in that direction, so it’s a real good fit for me. It feels really comfortable and I’m really glad to be here.”


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