The five finalists in the search for Castle Rock's next fire chief traveled from across the country to meet local residents and fire personnel on Sept. 5 as they vie for the top rank in what some of …
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The five finalists in the search for Castle Rock's next fire chief traveled from across the country to meet local residents and fire personnel on Sept. 5 as they vie for the top rank in what some of them called a widely esteemed fire department.
Former Chief Art Morales retired in May after 15 years with the department.
The five men were selected from a pool of 100 applicants. They were scheduled for a full day of interviewing on Sept. 6 and Town Manager David Corliss will make his nomination to council at a later date. His choice must be approved by the seven-member government body. Council's next meeting is Sept. 18.
Finalists said the department has multiple plans in place to serve the growing community and help the department expand with it. Castle Rock is adding about 2,000 people a year, or three families a day.
The task means monitoring call volumes and response times to see where demand is changing, and drawing from existing comprehensive and strategic plans, they said.
Here's more information about each finalist and their vision for Castle Rock.
Bachman is deputy chief of the Pike Township Fire Department, which is headquartered in Indianapolis and serves 90,000 people. He's pursuing his master's degree in emergency management and has spent 13 years as a chief officer.
Bachman said he looks for community support in a fire department, from residents, personnel and stakeholders.
“From what I've seen so far this community absolutely does that,” he said.
He also commended the town as a safe community with great schools, calling it a place he'd like to raise his family. Bachman said he was further attracted to the department's “success and the framework” put in place by past and present administrators.
As a chief he said good communication is key between top officials and agency personnel, being present in stations and learning what each location's needs are.
Among the finalists is Castle Rock's acting fire chief, Norris Croom, who's been with the department for 32 years. He's served as the acting fire chief once before in the early 2000s and was the deputy chief under Morales.
“I've had the opportunity to leave,” he said, “but Castle Rock is home.”
Croom says his historical knowledge of the department, having served in a growing community through a recession, combined with knowledge of the community as a whole, make him stand out among the finalists.
In the chief's position he'd aim to help the department improve its ISO (Insurance Services Office) rating from 2 to 1. If the department accomplished this, it would be one of fewer than 100 departments nationwide to reach the top ISO ranking and also be an accredited department, he said. Croom said the department has been working toward the goal for several years.
“There's so much opportunity in front of us,” he said. “We have to be flexible, we have to be adaptable, we have to always be looking for those area where we can improve.”
The second finalist who comes from within the department is Division Chief of Training Christopher McCarthy. He's served with Castle Rock since 2002, hailing from New York City's fire department where he was on duty during the 9/11 attacks.
“Being faced with something of that nature always leaves an imprint on you,” he said, adding it prepares you “to ensure that you provide the highest level of service at all times, even under adversity.”
McCarthy has climbed the ranks throughout his career, starting as a volunteer firefighter in 1984. As chief, he'd look to bolster the training division responsible for preparing the agency's 96 personnel for duty, today run by two people — himself and a captain.
“More training means better-performing firefighters,” he said.
McCarthy would also like to see the department gather feedback on every call it answers, which today is done for some but not all calls.
Jerrod Vanlandingham is the deputy public safety chief for the City of Longmont. He's overseen the fire branch of the city's public safety department for approximately six years and has spent his entire career with Longmont.
“I've had my eye on Castle Rock for the last several years,” Vanlandingham said. “Phenomenal staff down here.”
Vanlandingham said the anticipated growth of Castle Rock's fire department provides career opportunities for agency personnel and an exciting momentum within the department. And rapid growth, he said, is an issue he's familiar with. Longmont's department saw an 81 percent increase in call volume over the past decade with no added staff, he said.
Vanlandingham predicted Castle Rock will need a new fire station within three to four years based on population growth and will need to find funding or “creative ways” to handle increased call volume until a new station is built.
Michael Vogel is deputy fire chief for the City of Arlington, Texas, a community of approximately 400,000. He too started as a volunteer firefighter in a small community near Houston and worked his way through the ranks, he said.
Vogel said the town and fire department's coming growth helped attract him to the position and can be used as a recruitment tool in getting new hires and retaining those on staff, because “they don't go looking for bigger and better things.”
Vogel said he understands growth first hand. He watched Arlington climb from 300,000 to 400,000 people in his time with the city and has further experience working with natural events and disasters like tornados, hurricanes and large fires.
“I've been exposed to so much because of the size of the city,” he said.
In his next role, he's looking for a community where he can live, work and play and raise his children.
“All the research I've done on Castle Rock,” he said, “it fits to a T.”
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