The Town of Kingsville has hired John Quennell as the new fire chief to replaced Chuck Parsons, whose dismissal was announced Wednesday.
“The Town of Kingsville is fortunate to secure John Quennell along with his emergency response expertise, team building skill set, and overall professionalism to lead as Fire Chief during these critical times,” Mayor Nelson Santos said in a news release.
“The Chief is well-respected and is a strong and capable leader.”
Quennell was the deputy chief of the Lakeshore fire department from 2011 to 2019 and served with the Windsor fire department for 32 years before retiring in 2010. He joined the Kingsville fire department to fill a void left by Parsons when he took a leave of absence in September after a rescue of three American boaters went awry.
“We have recruited a highly competent chief officer who has years of experience in emergency operations,” said Kingsville CAO John Norton. “The town of Kingsville has a highly regarded fire department and we are proud to move forward with Chief Quennell as its leader.”
The release cited a recent review of the department which said a change of leadership was necessary.
Last September, the fire department sent a boat with two firefighters aboard to help three Americans whose boat was adrift in Lake Erie off Kingsville. The rescue boat capsized, forcing the firefighters to cling to the craft, which ultimately drifted ashore. A third firefighter waded into Lake Erie and pulled one of the American boaters ashore.
In an interview with CTV News Parsons said he was fired without cause. He said he took a paid leave to deal with a post traumatic stress disorder.
“My whole drive was to come back. To get better. It’s therapeutic to come back, to regain that foothold,” he told CTV.He said he has consulted a lawyer.
Norton told CTV the firing had nothing to do with Parsons’ health or the boat rescue.
“I would deny any allegation that we’ve done anything inappropriate.”
The impacts on the Kingsville Fire Department have been sobering and have included amongst some of its members, anxiety, sadness, anger and remorse.
A report commissioned by the town following the rescue mishap made sweeping recommendations to council to improve fire service operations but assigned no blame for the handling of the rescue. Deputy Chief Jeff Dean also took an indefinite leave but has returned to active duty.
Quennell said in November that the report prepared by Amherstburg Fire Chief Bruce Montone was commissioned as a result of the void left when Parsons and Dean took their leaves — and not the September rescue which saw the department rescue boat capsize. However, the report did examine the circumstances surrounding the lake rescue and the affect it had on the department.
“The impacts on the Kingsville Fire Department have been sobering and have included amongst some of its members, anxiety, sadness, anger and remorse,” the report said.
In December, the fire department gave bravery awards to three firefighters who were involved in the rescue: Captain Jeremy McHardy, his twin brother Jeffrey McHardy and Matthew Stewart.
The McHardy brothers were aboard the rescue boat that capsized. Stewart waded into the lake to pull one of the stranded boaters ashore.
Parsons had a lengthy career in firefighting. Prior to joining the Kingsville department he was the Leamington fire chief.
He was hired in 2017 after former fire chief Robert Kissner retired. Kissner was arrested in December 2016 on 17 charges involving sexual assault, sexual interference or sexual exploitation against eight alleged victims. He was found guilty in April 2019 of nine charges involving four victims — a firefighter and three students who worked at the fire hall. He was sentenced to five years in prison.