CES aims for improved services

Posted: Wednesday, February 05, 2003

Members of the Central Emer-gency Services service area may see some new faces in different places at the department, but the changes shouldn't raise an alarm. They are all a part of the department's efforts to improve services for its patrons, Chief Jeff Tucker said.

"We're going through some growth and changes in the department," Tucker said Thursday.

Among the changes are a new hire, three promotions and a renewed focus on training and the volunteer, or on-call, segment of the department.

Shawn Killian is the newest face in the department, hired in late December as a firefighter-paramedic. But just because he's new to the department doesn't mean he's new to the area or the field.

Killian was raised in Seward, where he got his first taste of emergency service while volunteering during high school. He went outside the state for training and worked in South Carolina for a time before returning to the Kenai Peninsula.

"My family lived here, it's better money and better retirement," Killian said. "I like the area. That's one of the reasons I came back."

Killian also said he's looking forward to the opportunity to work with the department and possibly move up in the ranks.

"I'd like to become an engineer, possibly a captain," he said.

Judging from the number of recent promotions in the department, such advancements certainly are possible.

Ed French has worked in emergency services for 23 years, serving in a number of roles in his career. He started as a volunteer firefighter as a junior in high school and his love for the career has only grown from there. He was hired at CES in 1982 and has spent most of his time with the department as an instructor in one form or another. Now, the title is official.

French was promoted to the position of training chief with CES.

"It's a staff position instead of a line position," he said. "I supervise the training of the department.

"(I'm looking forward to) the different challenges. My whole job perspective has changed. Instead of going out and taking care of patients or putting fires out, I'm in charge of making sure other people know how to do that," he said.

"His goal is to improve the training to make our personnel safe and effective in response to emergencies," Tucker added.

French is not the only one moving up in the CES world.

French's promotion left a slot open for a new engineer-paramedic. Dale Lawyer, a longtime firefighter-paramedic with the department, got the nod.

"Dale was next on the list to fill the slot," said CES Fire Marshal Gary Hale, explaining that such promotions require a number of prerequisites and tests.

"It's gratifying when firefighters become engineers," Hale said. "Their responsibility becomes the big red truck, so they may not have to get on the end of a hose. They may not have to eat smoke that particular day."

Lawyer was out sick last week and unavailable for comment.

Longtime volunteer Keith Hamilton also has a new position with the department, as captain of the on-call portion of the department.

On-call workers are what many people consider volunteers. Most have other, full-time jobs and work in emergency services to help out the community. They are paid minimal amounts for their work, however, so CES does not refer to the group as volunteers, Hale said.

Hamilton works a full-time job as director of Alaska Christian College in Soldotna, but he also has been involved with emergency services since he was 16.

"It started out as a school project in a career class and I fell in love with helping people, doing something that's just totally unrelated to my regular job," he said.

Since then, he has spent 25 years as a volunteer firefighter-paramedic, working at five different departments in four states. He joined the CES staff in August 2001, when he moved to the Kenai Peninsula from Colorado.

He said he is excited to take the reins of the on-call program at CES.

"Strong growth in the training aspects and retention and recruitment of new and existing firefighters -- that's my mission; that's my job," he said.

"We want to become the premier combination fire department in the state."

The on-call captain position is a new one for the department and is part of an effort to revitalize the program, Tucker said.

"With our department size and area, the on-call employees are very valuable. On-calls are very vital to augment our staffing," he said. "It's important we have people who value community service help us."

The department is actively seeking new recruits for the on-call program and held an interest meeting for about 25 people last week, Tucker said.

But, Hamilton added, it's not to late to show interest.

"I invite anybody to contact me," Hamilton said.

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