It’s been an unusual three years since Dave Elloway was appointed as Guelph Fire Chief, and now he’s ready to retire.
Coming into the role at the height of the pandemic, he’s had to wear a lot of different hats over the last few years.
From 4 p.m. to midnight he was the fire chief; during most of the day, he was the emergency manager. And any time in between, he would take on his previous role as administrative deputy, because they hadn’t recruited anybody in that time.
In just a few years, he’s led his team through a global pandemic, multiple accreditation processes, and various unprecedented incidents, including a house explosion in 2021.
It’s been hectic, sure. But for Elloway, it’s just part of giving back to the community, making it a better place.
“It just feels right. It feels like the right thing to do,” he said.
Elloway started out with the Guelph Police Service in 1988, where he remained in various roles for more than two decades before joining the Guelph Fire Department as its deputy chief in 2015.
After the 2003 blackout, he became involved with emergency management – a subject he grew so fascinated with that he went back to school to get a masters degree in disaster and emergency management.
“Why? Because you can look at things and learn things from other areas, and maybe make the place you’re involved with a little bit safer,” he said.
And it proved to be useful, over the course of the pandemic, and at various other times throughout his career.
For instance, one of the most notable moments in his time as fire chief was at the end of January 2021, when they responded to a house explosion.
“There is no playbook for that,” he said. “So as a result of some of my background, we took some steps that secured evidence right away. I’m quite proud of that.”
But he is most proud of how the men and women working at Guelph Fire have “continued to provide seamless service to the community, through all the fear, through all the worry, through all the not knowing.”
“This is something that nobody had ever faced before, and yet this organization was able to keep providing those services all the way through.”
His commitment to the community is something he takes seriously both in and outside of work. Over the years has been involved in tee-ball, the boy scout program, and when his oldest son turned 12, the Canadian cadet program.
“When my kids were involved in things, I liked to try and help out. My kids are long graduated; they’re adults with families of their own, and I’m still involved in the cadet program as an officer.”
He’s also the vice-chair for Crime Stoppers Guelph Wellington.
Elloway said there are few people who have the privilege of working in a community and being paid to do what we all should be doing as citizens, protecting people, keeping things safe, and standing up for others.
“There are very few people who are privileged enough to do that, and I’ve had that privilege of being able to do that for the last three years.”
And it’s something he will continue to do, even in retirement.
After officially retiring at the end of the month, he plans on continuing his work with the cadets and Crime Stoppers, and is looking for a non-profit or public board to join.
But he’s also planning on travelling and spending lots more time with his wife, his children and two grandchildren.
The process of finding a new fire chief is “well underway.” Elloway said he doesn’t know what the timeline looks like, but is “confident they will come to the right decision for the city and for the organization.”