Kenai gets new chief, assistant

Posted: Thursday, July 21, 2005

Kenai's new fire chief is no stranger to the city or the department he now leads.

Mike Tilly has been with the Kenai Fire Department since 1990 and served as the assistant fire chief under former Chief Scott Walden before taking over the top job.

Tilly's promotion was announced earlier this month at a regular meeting of the Kenai City Council. In an interview shortly after taking over the job, Tilly said he is looking forward to his new role.

Being familiar with the department personnel and procedures makes it easy to assume the leadership role, he said.

"I'm really excited about it. ... We've got a great bunch of guys to work with," he said.

Tilly was born and raised in Fairbanks, where he trained at the University Fire Department before moving to Kenai.

He said he has no big plans to revamp what he characterized as an excellent department. However, he did say he hopes to make some changes to better emphasize new training techniques and procedures.

"I think there's going to be some neat stuff we can do in-house," he said.

He said there will be no major changes at the department, but that he is open to new ideas.

"We're just going to take a look at some new ways of doing things," he said.

Tilly said he's lucky to be stepping into a department that's already well run and does a good job for the city.

"This department already has proven to be a really good service to the community," he said. "I'm not going to change that."

One of Tilly's first actions as new chief was to name his assistant, James Baisden. Originally from West Virginia, Baisden has been a firefighter since 1989. He moved to Alaska when he was in the Air Force, and has been with the Kenai Fire Department since 1998.

Baisden said he's eager to take on the additional responsibilities of being second in command.

"It's going to be a demanding job, but I'm looking forward to it," he said.

Now that the top two positions have been filled, Chief Tilly said he's now busy getting moved into his new office and trying to get the feel of leading the department.

"We're just now starting to formulate things," he said.

His top priority, he said, will be to ensure that fire and medic crews are able to respond to emergencies as quickly as possible.

"Basically I'm taking a look and evaluating how we want to accomplish the job we want to do," he said, "which is making sure our very talented people get to the scene."

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