Fire prevention officer ready for new challenge
After five years as Norfolk's fire prevention officer, Scott Pipe (left) has moved up to become assistant fire chief. Taking his place is (right) Michael Atkins of Fort Erie. JACOB ROBINSON/Simcoe Reformer
During a 16-year tenure with the Fort Erie Fire Department, Michael Atkins wore many hats.
A Fort Erie native, Atkins is not only a certified firefighter but has also worked as a public fire and life safety educator, a public information officer, and a fire inspector.
He recently made the move to become Norfolk's new fire prevention officer, a position that allows Atkins to combine all the skills he's acquired.
“In a lot of municipalities that you go to, a fire prevention officer's only focus is inspections, or there might be a public safety officer whose only focus is education,” Atkins explained. “When I saw this position was going to be available, I loved that it was such a diverse job description.”
Atkins was also intrigued by the unique challenges the county presents for a prevention officer.
“It's not rural, it's not urban – it's got aspects of pretty much everything,” he began. “There's the industrial, there's the vacation areas, there's definitely the farming community - every day is going to be a different day, a different challenge. It's something new, something exciting.”
Atkins filled the position left vacant by Scott Pipe. With the retirement of former assistant fire chief Denys Friesen, Pipe moved up the proverbial ladder after five years of dealing with the media and educating the public on the importance of fire safety.
“My heart is in fire prevention, I loved my job, it was a dream job and now I'm moving into my next dream job,” Pipe said. “I'm very fortunate. I don't think a lot of people can say that, but it's nice to be able to hand over something that's so important to you to someone that you know is going to do a really good job.”
Norfolk County Fire and Rescue Services will continue with its program that sees members go door to door to ensure smoke alarms are working and properly located in homes. Atkins said the Norfolk Fire website will soon be updated and include safety tips, a section for landlords and tenants as well as information for seniors. Each month a local firefighter will be featured on the department's social media pages along with safety messages from that person. They'll also introduce a contest where kids can complete a fire safety task to be entered to win a prize.
“We're not just handing (the position) over to Michael, Michael has ideas to take it a step further, to do bigger and better things and that's what exciting,” said Pipe. “You've got that new blood, new ideas.”
Only a couple days into his new venture, Atkins got a look at just how committed members of Norfolk Fire are when it comes to prevention and education.
“I read last week about the Station 1 crew handing out hats and doing some public education – taking advantage of a false alarm at Walmart,” he explained. “As a fire prevention officer, to see the crews out there putting a priority on public education, I was amazed.”