Deputy fire chief post being sought in 2014 in Elk River

by Joni Astrup

Associate Editor

The Elk River Fire Department is looking at adding a deputy fire chief to the roster in 2014.

The deputy chief of operations position is in the city’s 2014 preliminary budget; the budget will be finalized in December. Fire Chief T. John Cunningham has proposed filling the position in midyear. Pay and benefits from July 1 to Dec. 31, 2014, would cost the city $56,400.

The Elk River  Fire Department's aerial ladder truck, in action at the Lions Park Apartments fire in 2008. Star News file photo
The Elk River Fire Department fought the Lions Park Apartments fire in 2008. Star News file photo

Cunningham said the department’s goals include looking at how to address staffing shortages, specifically at Station No. 2 on Orono Parkway, and to give him some additional support when it comes to emergency management, training and running day-to-day operations.

“The responsibilities and workload of running a modern-era fire department continue to evolve, especially as we are seeing an increase in daytime calls,” Cunningham said.  “The deputy chief of operations will be able to focus on overseeing many of the daily activities and provide support in coordinating the city’s overall emergency preparedness programs.”

Approximately 40 on-call firefighters respond to more than 400 calls for service each year in Elk River and portions of Otsego and Big Lake Township. Front-line leadership and direction is provided by on-call officers who report to the fire chief, according to the department’s web site.

Cunningham said he has a list of things he’d like to accomplish, and a deputy chief could assist in that, including updating the city’s emergency response plans, conducting city-wide safety and emergency preparedness training and finishing the transition to a new records management system. A full-time deputy chief would also be in a position to take over if the chief is out of town or unavailable.  “We have a great on-call firefighting force. The deputy will be in a position to provide day-to-day leadership, direction and oversight while enabling the chief to attend to more administrative and strategic matters,” he said.

The fire department completed a strategic plan last year.  Assembling the final 50-page document was done working after hours and on weekends, Cunningham said.

“I’ve done my best over the last six months to try and have that better work-life balance, although it’s sometimes difficult because I find myself needing to work late on the week days and wanting to come in on Saturdays and Sundays. There are still many things I need to get to, but I am often limited by time,” he said.