Community members can continue to expect a high level of quality from Central Emergency Services, even with badges changing hands, said Jeff Tucker.
A newcomer to the Soldotna area and former special operations chief with Gainesville Fire and Rescue in Florida, Tucker is replacing retiring CES Fire Chief Len Malmquist.
Tucker is a 20-year veteran in fire services. Originally from Aurora, Ill., outside Chicago, Tucker has been in emergency service for 20 years. He got his start as a paramedic with an ambulance service, and later moved into fire fighting.
"I fell in love with emergency services," he said. "It's a unique job. There are not many jobs were you eat, sleep and live with the people you work with. There's a common bond, and the ability to help someone else affects their lives.
"Folks who come in don't do it for the money, but for the service they can provide. They're caring individuals who go out of their way to help others."
Tucker first visited the Kenai Peninsula last year during a trip for a family wedding in Wasilla.
He, his wife, Patty, and their three sons, Dylan, 11, Garrett, 7, and Alec, 6, visited the peninsula and found a perfect fit.
The outdoor-oriented family enjoys camping, fishing and snow skiing and saw a great opportunity.
"They're very excited," Tucker said of his three boys. "They love the outdoors, they love doing activities. The community up here offers a lot for them."
For Tucker, CES offers even more. Though he was first drawn to the open fire chief position because of the area, he said his research of the department was enticing.
"It's a high-quality, progressive department," he said. "It's one of the finest I've ever seen."
Tucker noted the use of cutting-edge technology and advanced emergency medical services and said he had the opportunity to use the department's new jet boat for its first two calls last weekend.
"It is to Chief Malmquist's credit that the department is in such a fine state as it is today," Tucker said.
And, he said, it's a legacy he hopes to carry on.
"The role of the fire chief is to set a course for the department, to ensure that the fire service is equipped and trained and that the department is ready to respond to whatever emergency it might be called to," he said. "We're a small family. One person can't do it -- it takes all working together."
Malmquist said he has high hopes for Tucker and the department, as well.
Malmquist came to the peninsula seven years ago after a series of jobs in Oregon fire departments. An avid fisher, he had planned to spend his retirement years in Alaska, but when the time came, he wasn't quite ready to retire. So he applied for the open fire chief job at CES. Now, he's ready to take a back seat to the action.
"It's nice to be part of the best department in Alaska and definitely the Kenai Peninsula," he said. "People living in this community get a very high level of service from these people, particularly the medics. They're very good at what they do."
"Chief Tucker will just continue that tradition, I have no doubt," Malmquist added.
Tucker began work at the department June 3, and Malmquist's last day will be June 30.
Malmquist said he is looking forward to having time for fishing and woodworking, but he also plans to stay involved with fire fighting and emergency services. He is an officer on the state fire services board and has agreed to offer consultations on emergency service issues to area officials.
"It's a good job," he said. "You won't get rich, but there's a lot of self-fulfillment. There's a lot to be said for helping mankind."
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