As Pine-Strawberry Fire Department’s new fire chief, David Staub said he doesn’t plan to make any major changes right away, but says they are coming.
Staub takes over a department in desperate need of reorganization.
The department needs battalion chiefs or a deputy fire chief at least, to keep operations running smoothly day-to-day, Staub says.
“We have got to do something about the organizational structure,” he said. “You can’t have one person running everything all the time.”
However, the last chief to suggest battalion chiefs faced strong opposition from the community, who didn’t want to pay for the extra positions.
Realizing this, Staub says he will have to come up with a “unique solution” for P-S, but is waiting until the first of the year to announce that solution.
“I don’t like the shift assignment set up,” he said. “It works with shift commanders, but it is not a fair solution.”
Currently, P-S Fire is set up with Staub as chief and six captains below him. Three of those captains were “promoted” to shift leader in January, gaining more responsibilities without a raise.
These “promotions” have caused some morale issues in the department especially for the three captains who were not given shift leader titles.
For daily operations, a captain is assigned to one of two stations with one of those captains acting as shift leader.
That shift leader is responsible for the overall daily operations and providing extra support for the fire department during multiple calls.
“Anywhere else, (shift leaders) would be battalion chiefs with captains beneath them,” Staub said.
Having battalion chiefs adds a layer of management that assures that the district is covered at all times.
In P-S, shift leaders are essentially acting with all the responsibilities of a battalion chief, minus the pay.
The creation of battalion chiefs is something the district has been planning for the last five years. When former chief Bob Lashua finally tried to implement the positions, the community balked, arguing the department didn’t need or could not afford the new positions.
Lashua defended the request, saying they were necessary to keep the department running safely and were outlined in the department’s five-year plan.
The three new positions would have ultimately resulted in nine employees being promoted and receiving pay raises.
The promotions would have come with a 5 percent raise, costing the department an estimated extra $22,000 a year.
Staub says he is considering battalion chiefs as well as a deputy chief, who would cover the district when he is off or out of town.
“I am looking at what will be the best to solve our problems long term,” he said. “We need a solution that is fiscally sound. I don’t want to go in a new direction without being able to maintain that.”
Staub believes Lashua’s request for battalion chiefs would have gone unnoticed by the community were we not in an economic downturn.
“The solution would be easy if money was not an issue,” he said. “The community is looking at cost and to reorganize the department, it is going to involve cost.”
Currently, the department is doing well financially. Lashua left the department with a reserve fund that should carry the department through any lulls.
Staub, a former Casa Grande battalion chief, took over as fire chief Aug. 13. Staub replaces Lashua, who retied after 27 years with the department.
A second-generation firefighter, Staub said he became interested in the field after watching his dad work his way up the ranks. Ironically, Staub’s father started his career working as a volunteer firefighter with the Payson Fire Department. His father later moved on to Rural Metro Fire Department in Scottsdale and then Ganado, Ariz., where he worked as chief.
It was in Ganado that Staub started his career as a volunteer firefighter at age 18. He later moved on to volunteering with the Goodyear Fire Department where he was hired on full time in October 1994. From Goodyear, Staub worked in ambulance management and then moved to Casa Grande, where he became a battalion chief.
“I traded desert for pine trees,” Staub said of his new locale. “This will be a great place to raise my kids” who are 12 and 10 years old.
Through the years, Staub said he has spent many holidays and vacations visiting the Rim Country hunting, fishing and camping. Every year, he and his wife spend their anniversary in the area.
“My wife always wanted to live up here,” he said. “I always wanted to be a fire chief.”
Staub said he is excited to work with the staff and community.
“This is a great community fire department with some awesome individuals who do a lot for this community,” he said. “I plan to stay here as long as they keep me.”