Opening Keynote

Fire Chief Darby Allen, Fort McMurray, Alberta

Darby Allen cropped.jpgWe are excited to welcome Fire Chief Darby Allen as the Opening Keynote Speaker on Thursday afternoon.  

During the catastrophic 2016 Alberta wildfires, fire chief Darby Allen shot to global acclaim for guiding the 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray to safety with no loss of life—the largest evacuation in Canadian history.

In the midst of a devastating natural disaster, how does one person manage a team’s countless, critical decisions?  Beyond being a brave and strategic leader, Chief Allen also practices empathetic team building, including his colleague in decisions and looking out for their needs. 

In this keynote address, he offers actionable takeaways for leaders: lessons on encouraging and trusting your teammates wholeheartedly; never losing focus on the moment by worrying about the larger story; and establishing unbreakable relationships that observe and celebrate even the smallest of human elements.  We all face emergencies and crises—Chief Allen shows us how to overcome them.

Known as the face of the Alberta wildfires—and widely celebrated as a national hero—Darby Allen is an exemplar of selfless courage and level-headedness under pressure. Currently teaching a program in Transformational and Charismatic Leadership at Queen’s University’s Smith School of Business, Allen was Regional Fire Chief of Wood Buffalo, an area that encompasses the community of Fort McMurray. In spring 2016, he spearheaded the evacuation of the city’s entire population while the rest of the world watched. Throughout the ensuing weeks of operations, he worked tirelessly with first responders and volunteers, who came from across the nation (and globe) to assist. His updates to the media were not only a means of reliable information, but a source of optimism—Allen provided calm reassurance as the lead spokesperson throughout the rescue efforts.

Prior to his role as Regional Fire Chief, Allen worked as a firefighter for the New Hampshire Brigade and the Calgary Fire Department. In Calgary, he moved up in the ranks to Training Officer and Assistant Deputy Chief of Operations, before transferring to Fort McMurray Fire Service. He served as Assistant Deputy Chief, Deputy Chief Operations, and finally, Regional Fire Chief during his tenure at Fort McMurray.