To say fire fighting is in Mark Goddard’s blood would be an understatement.
The Mission native began his career 21 years ago as a paid on-call firefighter at Mission Station Two.
Now, he is the new Chief of Mission Fire Rescue Services.
“My dad was a district chief, also in Mission, so it’s always been part of the family. I have an uncle who is a chief up in Prince George so it’s a family affair. As long as I can remember we’ve been involved,” said Goddard, who grew up in Stave Falls and has lived in Mission his entire life.
While at Station Two, Goddard worked his way right up to the position of district chief. When it was decided that Mission Station One was going to employ career firefighters, Goddard was one of the first four people hired.
From there he worked his way to becoming a captain and in 2018 he was promoted to assistant chief.
About a year later, then fire chief Dale Unrau announced his intention to retire.
“They ran a competition for chief and I was successful. And here I am.”
He’s only been on the job for about six weeks and it still feels strange.
“I think I’m still a little bit in shock over the whole idea. It’s not completely rare, but its fairly uncommon for somebody to move this quickly from assistant to chief,” he explained.
Goddard, who is married and has two children, has never worked for any fire department other than Mission and says he enjoyed working his way through the department.
“I kept seeing opportunities to make things better. Every position I got into I got more and more able to voice my opinions. The higher up you go, the more influence you have.”
And now his is in charge of the entire department.
“Anything that says Mission Fire Rescue Service is ultimately my responsibility.”
And he has a big team to work with. In all there are approximately 80 paid, on-call fire fighters, 13 career staff fire fighters – which will soon grow to 17 as four new hires are planned – two assistant chiefs, two admin support staff, one fire inspector and one ESS director.
“I love where the department is going right now. We are a growing department and we are going to continue to grow in the next few years,” he said.
Goddard credits former Chief Unrau for providing him with a road map for the future.
“The department is in a fantastic condition right now. Basically Dale has set up some very large dominoes to knock over. We have so many great master plans in place some smaller plans … we really have all the benchmarks laid out for probably the next five to 10 years. We just have to work to meet them.”
Of course Goddard has some of his own plans for the future.
“My passion is firefighter mental health. I’d like to see us grow that program to the point where we’re ensuring that everybody is really well looked after. We do have a lot of great things in place already, but there’s alway room for improvement.
“It’s turning into one of the number one killers of first responders, mental health issues and suicide, and I don’t ever want to be the chief that has to notify a family member or have to apologize for not looking after one of our staff. It’s something I’m both afraid of but very switched on and passionate about.”
Goddard said he also wants to maintain the great relationship between the professional firefighters and the management team.
Overall, he said the future looks bright.
“There’s a lot of work to be done, but we are in great shape.”