After months of searching, Niagara-on-the-Lake found its new fire chief. Right here in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Deputy chief Jay Plato has been promoted to fire chief and community emergency management co-ordinator as of this past Monday.
The town made the announcement last Thursday morning.
As the new boss, he said he is not planning on “reinventing the wheel or trying to figure out where we’re going,” because the 110-member volunteer department already has a strong master plan.
He intends to continue implementing it.
“You’ve always got to be strategically planning for the long term,” he said, but he doesn’t doesn’t see the town shifting to full-time firefighters any time soon.
“The volunteer model is effective. And in my personal opinion, we’ve got the best-trained, most professional volunteers in the entire province,” he added.
As the town grows, maybe a decade from now, the department might have to make some adjustments, he said.
Plato says he has a good relationship with his team of firefighters. After working with them for a few years he’s developed some strong friendships.
He got his start with the town as a building inspector in the summer of 2014.
Before that, Plato worked for Raimondo and Associates, a Niagara-based architectural firm.
“Building and fire have always been very relatable and I didn’t realize how relatable until starting to work for the town,” he told The Lake Report in an interview.
Plato grew up in Niagara Falls and still lives there with his wife Tammy and their two children, ages six and eight.
In May 2017, he took on the role of fire prevention and public education officer while volunteering at Fire Station 2 in St. Davids.
In 2020, he was promoted to deputy fire chief and, with Darren Trostenko, has been sharing acting chief duties since Nick Ruller left the position in February.
Fire education and risk reduction are among his top priorities as chief, but so is “the health and wellness of our firefighters in general,” he said.
Plato holds a fire service executive management certificate from Humber College along with many other professional designations.
“Jay has been essential in overseeing fire prevention, fire and life safety education, fire investigation activities, managing municipal emergency management, and more,” Lord Mayor Betty Disero said in a media release announcing Plato’s appointment.
And chief administrator Marnie Cluckie said she is “confident that Jay’s skillset, leadership and passion for community safety will make him an excellent fire chief.”
Plato was instrumental in shaping the town’s strategic response to COVID-19, the town noted in its announcement.
As winter approaches, there is concern that cases of COVID-19 will ramp up again.
“We have full faith and trust in our public health system,” Plato said.
He and his team of volunteers have worked hard to follow public health guidelines in the past and he sees no reason to deviate from that strategy.
Disero said his “proven expertise” will make him an asset in his new role with the town.