Capt. Jon Canada finished his 24-hour shift as an interim battalion chief for the Gainesville Fire Department on Wednesday.
On Thursday, Canada started his new job: interim fire chief.
Canada hopes to see the "interim" tag removed at some point, but for now he is one of what could be several candidates to permanently succeed Gainesville Fire Chief Dick Taylor, who on Oct. 16 announced his retirement effective Thursday.
Canada, 38, has been with Gainesville’s fire department more than 14 years, rising through the ranks from firefighter to apparatus operator to lieutenant, captain and battalion chief. He joined the firefighting ranks at age 23 after a few years working in his father’s construction company.
"Basically it was a childhood dream," Canada said of the firefighting profession. "I think most little boys grow up loving fire departments and fire engines. It’s one of those things I always thought about and loved."
Canada, who is pursuing a degree in fire sciences from Lanier Technical College, said he’s "learned a lot, and I’ve got a lot to learn. It’s a job I have got a passion for, and it’s a job you have to have a passion for. There’s no middle ground."
Canada will oversee a department that employs about 75 people at four stations and has a budget of $4.8 million. He comes during a critical time for any fire department: an all-important audit from the Insurance Service Organization, or ISO, will take place next month. The ISO rating of a fire department measures its effectiveness and helps set home insurance rates. Gainesville’s ISO rating of 2 is only one removed from the best possible score, a 1.
"It’s something for a department to be proud of, to have that rating," Canada said. "We want to strive to maintain that class 2 status."
City Manager Bryan Shuler said in a statement, "I am confident in Capt. Canada’s ability to lead us through this process."
Canada, a native of Gainesville who attended North Hall High School and graduated from Maranatha Christian Academy, says he hopes to eventually be appointed as the city’s permanent fire chief. For now, he’s glad he got the call to serve at that post in the interim.
"I’m very excited, proud and honored to be chosen for this position," he said. "This fire department is more than 100 years old, and it has a legacy. I’m honored to be a part of that legacy. I’m excited for the future of our department. Any time the leadership changes, it’s a new era."