New Fire Chief Faces Administrative, Public Safety Problems
ANCHORAGE - The new chief of the Anchorage Fire Department doesn't have much time to reflect on his promotion.
He now leads around 350 frontline firefighters.
"They are all my responsibility and that can be a little bit nerve racking," said Bushue at AFD headquarters Tuesday.
Bushue's to-do list is long and includes filling the deputy position and assistant chief position that are now vacant.
Bushue says he feels like he grew up with the department, joining as a paramedic in 1981.
"It's also key for everyone, the firefighters, that there is someone in administration in headquarters that knows what they are going through every day."
Bushue has plans to increase the skills of firefighters who inspect new buildings, so they are not only looking for the hazards that will affect them when they are fighting a blaze but also hazards that the owners could be facing.
"What we would like to do is up their training and to have them also say, 'Ok here is an issue with the fire code, or here's a safety problem in this building,'" Bushue said.
Another big issue the new chief must tackle is how to retain a group of around 40 firefighters who are currently employed under a Federal SAFER grant. That money will run out in May next year and there is no word on whether the grant will be renewed.
"We can't actually apply for another SAFER grant to fund the firefighters who are here now, yet, we will have to wait until the clock is running down before we can actually make application for another SAFER grant."
"What I would like to see happen is for us to retain those firefighters, and I am making a case and looking at objectively, a business case for those firefighters and how they are able to improve what we do," Bushue said.
The fire department has applied for a separate grant for the creation of a new station and an additional ambulance near Downtown Anchorage.
"All the medic units and ambulances are very busy and if we could have one more we are relatively certain that it would improve response times across the city."
The grant request is in the hands of the federal government and if approved, would create new positions as well as the reposition current staff.