The Savage Fire Department will add an assistant chief and deputy chief to its roster under a proposal from Chief Andrew Slama to create more leadership roles within the department.
“We’re a really young department; that’s why we need to grow our leadership,” Slama told Savage Mayor Janet Williams and members of the Savage City Council at their Nov. 4 meeting.
The changes won’t require an increase to the department’s preliminary 2020 budget, he said, but will create new opportunities for firefighters. Council members said they supported the plan.
“You’re the expert in this business,” Councilor Gene Abbott told Slama. “I’m all for the changes you want to do.”
Savage City Administrator Brad Larson said the city plans to start advertising for the assistant chief position this week. A change to the department’s non-bargaining agreement formalizing some of the changes will go before the council for approval Nov. 18.
The department employs around 35 paid-on-call volunteer firefighters overseen by four captains split between the two fire stations. Two deputy chiefs — one paid-on-call and one full-time — oversee their entire stations and report to the chief.
Slama’s proposed changes would elevate the full-time deputy chief position to assistant chief and add another paid-on-call deputy chief position to take its place.
In August, Slama also added the option for firefighters to sign up for daytime shifts to earn more paid hours and help with the day-to-day duties of the department.
Slama said the changes help prepare for the future after a wave of retirements in recent years caused the department’s average firefighting experience to dip.
Former Fire Chief Andrain Roach, who resigned in August, also called on city leaders to increase the department’s staffing levels in his resignation letter.
He said the department needs a full-time administrative assistant, operations and training assistant chief, an additional deputy chief and a duty crew of full-time firefighters to keep up with the increasing demand on the department.