Coming soon: Paid fire chiefRiver Falls decided in 2008 to hire a full-time paid fire chief in 2009. Since then the city has worked to develop the job description and candidate requirements.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
River Falls decided in 2008 to hire a full-time paid fire chief in 2009. Since then the city has worked to develop the job description and candidate requirements.
Police and Fire Commission Chairman DeWayne Meyer expects the hiring process to take a few more months. The commission meets the first Monday of each month, and he anticipates it will review the job description at its meeting next week.
Meyer couldn’t foresee whether the commission will approve it or discuss changing it.
“There are two or three areas that might end up having some revision,” he said.
The commission and fire department want to be definitive about job qualifications. The two entities asked for fire-chief job descriptions from comparable communities including New Richmond, Prescott, Menomonie and Chippewa Falls to help them refine River Falls’ requirements.
Once it approves the document, the commission forwards it to the City Council for approval. Next, the city will advertise for the position, interview candidates and hire someone.
Meyer said the new chief’s salary hasn’t been determined yet. Current Volunteer Fire Chief Bob Schwalen makes $500 per month.
Meyer points out that River Falls needs a full-time paid fire chief because of community growth and increased responsibilities.
“The duties have grown tenfold,” he said.
The Police and Fire Commission chair said it’s unrealistic to expect an individual to work eight hours a day then tend to that magnitude of departmental duties in their “spare time.”
Meyer said River Falls has had five fire chiefs in the last 10 years, indicating that it’s high-stress work.
He said Schwalen, who’s handled the job for five years, has a long tenure compared to most.
Meyer said the fire department’s budget comes in around $340,000. The chief takes responsibility for it plus capital equipment, for example a new $740,000 ladder truck last year.
The fire chief also supervises more than 40 firefighters, about which Meyer says, “That’s a pretty goodly number to be responsible for.”
The commission has been considering a full-time chief for several years. Meyer credits retired City Administrator Bernie Van Osdale for getting the fire-chief salary into last year’s city budget.
The City Council’s Jan. 13 agenda included the tentative job description that the Police and Fire Commission is reviewing and the City Council will eventually approve.
The new chief takes responsibility for organizing and directing the volunteer fire department. Generally the person prevents or minimizes injury and loss of life and property as a result of fire. The as-yet unapproved fire chief job description says he or she:
River Falls looks for a person with specific qualifications and the physical ability to do the job.
The new chief will have:
The new chief must have good vision in both eyes. He or she cannot be color blind so as to differentiate the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA)’s color codes.
It says the person must be ready to perform duties day and night in all kinds of weather, including extreme temperatures. He or she also may need to lift heavy objects.