Monroe County Florida--New Fire Chief on Board..His Thoughts
Chief Martin happens to be a friend of mine. Found this article discussing his new position and his first days on the job.
County's new fire chief evaluates his new job
BY GINNY HALLER
Monroe County's first fire chief is on the job.
In his first month, he has observed and talked with about 20 percent of the personnel in the unincorporated fire rescue departments along the Florida Keys.
"I have my eyes wide open and I am biting my lip, unless I see an obvious safety issue, because I am just looking and talking with the troops now," said Clark Martin when talking about his visits around the county's fire stations. "I am impressed with the personnel that I've met. With very few exceptions, they are energetic, cooperative, and genuinely want to do the best they can for the citizens of the county."
He became the Monroe County fire chief in August 2002, and expectations that he will become the glue that holds together an often-fractious group of paid and volunteer firefighters that are spread out over a long string of islands is high. This is the first time the county has a countywide fire chief who is in charge of managing the paid and volunteer fire/rescue and emergency medical service operations.
Chief Martin said he sees his job to be that of a leader who can coordinate to get the best services for Monroe County based on the funding that is available. He has not seen his first fire yet, but has handled several medical emergencies and an ammonia leak at an icehouse Friday morning.
Before he became Monroe County's new fire chief, Martin was the deputy chief of special operations with the Fairfax County, Va., fire and rescue department.
He began his career in 1973 with that fire department as a firefighter. He was promoted to deputy chief in 1995 and then worked in operations as the A-shift deputy chief until 1998, when he became the head of the fire prevention for the county. In 2000, he was assigned to special operations, where he supervised emergency medical services, water rescue, hazardous materials emergency response and technical rescue programs in Fairfax County.
Martin and his wife honeymooned in the Keys almost 23 years ago and they celebrated their 10th anniversary here. He explained why he applied for the job in Monroe County by telling about the day his wife looked out the window in Virginia and saw 20 inches of snow on the ground with a forecast of 8 inches more overnight.
"My wife said, 'I can't take this anymore,'" Martin said. "I saw the ad, and said let's try that."
Creating a super-chief
The new fire chief's position was created in early 2001 when the county commissioners searched for a way to bring together the paid and volunteer firefighters, and the volunteer fire chiefs. At the time, County Administrator Jim Roberts involved the chief of the Big Coppitt Volunteer Fire Department and the president of the local chapter of the International Association of Firefighters in the effort to bring a spirit of cooperation between the groups.
"Mr. Martin brings with him a wealth of experience in a variety of positions extending over nearly 30 years," said Roberts in a report to the county commission at the June 2002 meeting, when he recommended Martin for the fire chief's position. He added that Martin was also experienced as a volunteer firefighter during his tenure with the Fairfax County fire department.
"We have certainly been waiting for our super fire chief for a while," said County Commissioner George Neugent. "I am convinced we have the right guy. The fire chiefs in the different districts are happy to have him. He is an asset for the county and the fire department and the Florida Keys."
Commissioner Dixie Spehar said she was also impressed with Martin.
"It is in the best interests of the volunteer firefighters, the rapid response team and the residents of Monroe County," said Spehar when asked about Martin.
Since Martin has stepped into the new fire chief position late in the yearly budgetary cycle, he seems to be at a disadvantage. But in his rounds of the various fire rescue departments, he has compiled a tentative report on the needs of Monroe County's fire departments.
On the state of capital facilities, he said the county's improvement plan is beginning to address some of the needs.
· The two newest stations are functional and adequate.
· One station is functional and improvements are needed.
· Three stations are "spartan, with inadequate facilities, and safety and health concerns."
· He has not toured three of the stations.
On the state of apparatus, Martin said EMS vehicles appear to be state of the art, yet the fire apparatus is merely adequate and there is a lack of aerial equipment or elevated stream capacity. Self-contained breathing apparatus and personal protective gear are more than 12 years old and specialized rescue equipment needs to be in a replacement cycle.
"No fire chief is ever happy when he doesn't get everything he wants," said Martin. "I understand none of the divisions will get everything they want. Obviously I have arrived after the 2002-03 budget was developed, so I can't say what I would have proposed any differently. I am still assessing the needs."
This story published on Sun, Sep 15, 2002
New Job Brings New Controversy
After just over a month on the job, the Chief faces his first controversy dealing with contracts and service delivery.
A second Story relating to EMS