On April 4, 2015, the city of Lloydminster lost one of its most committed community members and public servants.
David “Todd” Gustavson, chief of the Lloydminster Fire Department for 17 years, passed away at the Lloydminster Hospital at the age of 53.
Gustavson grew up in Lloydminster, born into a family tradition of firefighting. At the age of 16, like his father and his father’s father before him, Gustavson joined the fire department.
“He grew up with it through his grandad and his own father and now his son is a member of the fire department as well,” said city manager Glenn Carroll, who knew Gustavson for 15 years. “I can’t stress what a huge loss that is to the whole city. Especially to his family, but the whole city family as well.”
The young Gustavson would have no difficulty finding success as a firefighter, and in a few short years he started rising through the ranks.
“I started in ‘83 and when I came on Todd was already a deputy fire chief,” current deputy fire chief Calvin Nickless said. “Phenomenal leader. He had fire knowledge like you couldn’t believe. He could come on a fire scene and know exactly which direction we had to go and (he demonstrated) excellent leadership through everything.”
In 1998, after 20 years in the department, Gustavson succeeded his father as chief of the fire department. But even though he now held the top position at the department, Gustavson would still visit schools and join his fellow firefighters on their door-to-door safety checks. He was most at home amongst the people.
“Todd was more than a fire chief, he was a huge community member,” Carroll said. “He was the first to volunteer, whether it was for a barbecue or for the (Colonial Days) parade. He just loved this community and the community loved him back.”
Gustavson was always a prominent fixture at public gatherings and community events. Lloyd FM program director Kurt Price got to know Gustavson through his charity work. They first worked together on Here Comes Santa Claus Day in 2008. At the first meeting, there were some concerns over assigning work and Gustavson stood up and announced that the resources of the fire department would be at their disposal.
The two have since collaborated on the Twinkle Tour and Lloyd FM’s celebrity duets contest.
“The best way that I can describe Todd is jovial. He was always smiling, he was always happy and he was always willing to help out,” Price said. “If I had a problem I called Todd and he dealt with it immediately. There was one time where I had an issue with the guy putting the fireworks on for Here Comes Santa Claus downtown, and Todd drove over there and within three minutes the debate was done. He had settled everything. It was like everything was a fire with Todd.”
Throughout his career, Gustavson made a point of building relationships with fellow uniformed organizations like the Lloydminster Rescue Squad, rural fire departments and the RCMP. Recently, he coached the fire department against the RCMP at the inaugural Battle of the Badges charity hockey game in February.
“You could see he had the natural leadership qualities (of) a strong leader,” RCMP Insp. Suki Manj said.
“He was like a big brother to me and I know he’s looked at as a father figure and a brother to many of the firefighters. He passed on a lot of his traits to the people he worked with and the city of Lloydminster will benefit from having an individual like him.”
Through his actions and leadership, Gustavson has left an indelible imprint on the fire department and the community as a whole and his comrades are dedicated to honouring his memory and following his example.
“He has mentored a great crew here and we’re going to follow his legacy,” Nickless said.
A public service will be held for Todd Gustavson on April 10 at 10:30 a.m. at the Stockade Convention Centre. The public is also invited to view the formal procession afterwards. His family requests donations in his memory be made to the ALS Society.