KINGSVILLE — The working life of Jason Suchiu has come full circle.
He started his career in firefighting as a fire prevention officer with the Kingsville Fire Department and now he’s returned as the new chief, replacing John Quennell.
In between, there was a stint with the Lakeshore fire department where he attained the rank of deputy chief.
He returned to Kingsville as a deputy chief — a lateral move — with the understanding he could ultimately apply for the top job.
“This was clearly a job you couldn’t pass up,” Suchiu said.
Quennell was brought in by the Town of Kingsville after years of turmoil at the department.
Former chief Bob Kissner left the force in 2019 after being charged with sexual assault. He was later found guilty on nine charges involving four victims — a firefighter and three students who worked at the fire hall. He was sentenced to five years in prison and was recently paroled.
Quennell’s immediate predecessor Chuck Parsons took a leave of absence in 2020 after a rescue of three American boaters went awry. He was dismissed in June 2021.
A report commissioned by the town following the rescue mishap made sweeping recommendations to council to improve the fire service but assigned no blame over the handling of the rescue.
I spent a lot of time in the fire hall, checking equipment. From an early age I had that aspiration to help people and get involved with the fire service. (My grandfather) was definitely a mentor.”
The report cited morale issues in the volunteer department, particularly at the station in Cottam.
Quennell, who came to Kingsville with the understanding his job was temporary, said he feels many of the issues outlined in the report have been addressed.
“I think what I’ve done and what we continue to do together, Jason and I, that’s one of the comforting points of (me) wanting to leave.
“Leaving feels good because I know who is taking over.”
There are many cliches about why men and women go into firefighting. Playing with fire trucks as a kid is one. Following the footsteps of a parent or grandparent is another.
Suchiu’s move to firefighting follows the latter.
His grandfather was a deputy fire chief with a department in Northern Ontario.
“I spent a lot of time in the fire hall, checking equipment. From an early age I had that aspiration to help people and get involved with the fire service. (My grandfather) was definitely a mentor.”
Suchui said Kingsville is growing — it will soon have its first six-storey buildings — and with growth comes more pressure for the local fire department.
“I think as far as the existing fire service, it’ll remain unchanged. We have the equipment with respect to vehicles,” he said.
But “some of the developments will change some of the training.”
Suchui said he will continue Quennell’s emphasis on staff training — and community outreach.
“Next year we want to focus on more community events and getting out to the pubic,” he said. “We have the staff that is interested in doing that.”