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Crossfield Fire Chief retiring after 25 years of service

“I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart.” 
Crossfield Fire Chief Ben Niven has announced his retirement after 25 years of service.

Crossfield Fire Chief Ben Niven is retiring, after 25 years of service to the community in both good times and in bad. 

Niven has been the department’s chief for the past 14 years, but feels now is the right time to pass the torch onto a new generation of local firefighters.

“I got to work with some awesome people and work with residents in the community and throughout the province, and it has just been a good run,” he told the Rocky View Weekly. “[It’s] something I'm going to miss dearly, for sure.”

Niven started out as a volunteer firefighter in Crossfield, and is grateful to the fire hall veterans who welcomed him into the fold all those years ago. He said the friendships and relationships he has formed at the Crossfield Fire Department have been career-defining and life-changing.

“The fire hall's brought me so much,” he said. “(The job) has opened my doors for not only my full time career as a health and safety director, but also I met my wife through the fire hall. (We) settled down and had our children here in Crossfield.”

Being a firefighter in Crossfield has been a continual learning experience, according to Niven, and he has seen great changes in the town and local fire department during his time there.

“If there was a day that I didn't learn something, it was a very slow day,” he stated. “So yeah, it was continuous, continuous learning and continuous evolving, I guess, personally and professionally.” 

Niven noted his time as chief coincided with an overall population boom in Crossfield, and as the town grew, so did the number of calls the local department responded to.

“(When) I moved into (becoming) chief, the call volume kept going up and up and up and, you know, the town was expanding,” he said. “We're working a lot more with our mutual aid partners. So our call volume almost hit 600 calls last year in 2022. So from 92 (calls 25 years go), to almost 600.”

The life of a firefighter is one of service to others, said Niven, and often under some of the worst circumstances. 

“It is a fairly dangerous occupation and not always glamorous,” he admitted. “There are lots of things you get to see and experience that are kind of the worst, the worst for folks. And so those are some of the challenges, for sure.

Niven said bringing mental health into the picture for firefighters was always a focus for him and his department. In the most tragic times, Niven felt he could always rely on his fellow firefighters for emotional support. It is that camaraderie that has kept him going all these years.

“My captain, Joel Holstein, has been a huge advocate for that, and I support that 110 per cent,” he said.

“(There) are definitely some challenges that I've encountered over the years, and all of them come together with teamwork and perseverance, and just working together as a team in a family.”

Niven said he has had the luxury of working from home for much of the past 14 years, despite his regular health and safety job being with a company based in Grande Prairie. So he’s not retiring from the daily grind just yet, even as he hangs up his hat with the fire department.

“I still have, like everybody else, about 20 more years or so on the Freedom 80 plan,” he joked. 

All joking aside, Niven is grateful for the support of his community all these years, and is happy to have helped make a difference in people’s lives.

“My goal in life was to always be there to help people,” he stated. “That need to always want to be there for people, and help people, has always been a big part of me and my family.

“I guess that's another thing the fire hall gave me, was that ability to actually do that for more than just, you know, my closest friend, so to speak. I was able to help out strangers at their time of need. And yeah, and that has brought me a lot of satisfaction.

“I just want to thank everybody from the bottom of my heart.” 

—With files from Carmen Cundy/Rocky View Weekly


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