It’s been less than two months since Darren Kuhn packed up his bags and made the move from Edmonton to Yellowknife, but already he’s full of ideas for his new role at the Yellowknife Fire Division.

Darren Kuhn is Yellowknife’s new deputy fire chief of life safety and fire prevention. – Kirsten Fenn/NNSL photo

As the city’s new deputy fire chief of life safety and fire prevention, Kuhn wants to help Yellowknifers work together to keep their community safe and advocate for mental-health awareness in the firefighting profession.

“I feel the best thing that I can do is to get out there and to explain to the communities, these are the things we need to work together on,” Kuhn said. “It really has to be not just our responsibility to save people. I have this saying where fire is everyone’s fight.”

Kuhn started his career in 2005, working in Fort McMurray as a firefighter with emergency medical training.

In 2009, he moved to work with the city of Spruce Grove, Alta., just west of Edmonton, before eventually moving to the provincial capital itself to become a fire inspector.

While it was a change from being on the front lines, “it allowed me to help the firefighters in a different way,” Kuhn said.

His role was to ensure buildings were safe for firefighters to go into and that building owners were compliant with the fire code.

Not long before moving to Yellowknife, Kuhn was chosen to restructure the fire education program in Edmonton, developing fire safety presentations for students, seniors and refugees.

“I all of a sudden found this whole new chapter of firefighting that allowed me to still feel like I was contributing in a helpful way,” Kuhn said.

When a job came up in Yellowknife with many of the same components of fire safety and prevention he was already working on, he decided to take the leap.

While Yellowknife is a little smaller than where he comes from, that doesn’t bother him.

Sometimes, Kuhn said, you have to be willing to move to gain new opportunities and learn from people with different views and styles of leadership.

“It’s been really nice to be able to bring in fresh ideas,” Kuhn said. “And I’ve got a whole bag of fresh ideas that I want to get off the ground.”

Just this month, he delivered his first fire safety presentation to seniors at the Baker Centre, lighting up the room with fire demonstrations and sharing tips on how to prevent accidents.

He’s hoping to follow that up with more student-friendly presentations at schools around the city.

Kuhn said he’s a strong believer in awareness and education.

And that goes for awareness about the well-being of his crew as well.

It’s the type of job where it’s important to have one another’s backs, Kuhn said, and he wants to support his team in his new role as a deputy fire chief.

“You see the injuries and the illnesses and the incidents that a lot of times you never even thought existed out there in the world,” he said, speaking about the job of firefighters and emergency responders. “It’s really not normal to do that kind of stuff and to see that kind of stuff and to feel those kind of feelings afterwards.”

Kuhn said he’s always wanted to climb the ladder to eventually become a chief, but he wants to make sure he doesn’t lose touch with the people on the ground.

“If they’re looking after the community, then who’s looking after them?” Kuhn said. “I really want to make sure I am, and we are as a department here, and that the support is there.”