Fairfield’s fire department internal restructuring is nearly complete as officials promoted two firefighters to deputy fire chiefs and promoted another to captain.
The department recently hired three firefighter/paramedics — Mark Bittner, Kyle Schauer and Andrew Wilkens — and is in the process to promote two from its ranks to lieutenant. Four more firefighter/paramedics will be hired by the end of the year with the help of the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant that was awarded in July.
Fairfield Fire Department Chief Don Bennett said the promotions of Randy McCreadie and Tom Wagner to deputy fire chief, and Jamie Ruhl to fire captain, will stabilize the administration. McCreadie and Wagner were promoted from captain and lieutenant, respectively, and are the first deputy fire chiefs since the retirement of former Deputy Fire Chief Dennis “Denny” Glenn a decade ago. Ruhl was also a lieutenant.
These three administration positions solidify the administration and Bennett said allows the city to rein back some of the administrative duties that had been disseminated over the past decade to shift employees, who would be on duty for 24 hours and off for 48 hours.
“We have done a very, very good job with that program, except it delayed completing tasks, it extended the length to initiate change in a project in the fire department,” Bennett said. “We do things very well but now we can do an extraordinary job overseeing various projects now that we have these 40-hour-a-week employees.”
The changes being made — including increasing the staffing of 17 firefighters per shift from 13 — are because of the 2.5-mill fire levy voters approved last year that adds nearly $2.38 million a year to the fire department budget.
While the new deputy chiefs will have some shared responsibilities in fire prevention, accident investigations and complaint management, McCreadie will oversee fire training and daily operations while Wagner will oversee EMS operations and community relations.
McCreadie said when adding daily staffing to 17 from 13, it’s important to have the appropriate management staff.
“Chief Bennett’s been doing it by himself since Denny left, and Tom and my roles is … to give the personnel what they need to be successful,” McCreadie said.
Wagner said being able to take back some of those administrative duties from the shift employees “will help better support the line-level people and I think provide a better service to our customers.”
“It also is going to allow people below us to promote up. I think that gives people motivation to want to take fire officer classes,” he said.
Bennett said the department is “under the clock” to hire the four firefighters with the SAFER grant, which will allow the department to “bank” the money it would pay to hire four new firefighters. A new firefighter hire will cost the city between $102,000 to $115,000, which the first year of the SAFER grant will pay for 75 percent of that cost, which includes insurance and equipment.