It’s been roughly six months since the Payson Fire Department’s chief retired and the town council axed the fire marshal position.
That has left one of the most expensive town departments without its top two leaders. Remarkably, things have not burned to the ground.
Deputy Town Manager of Public Safety Don Engler credits the town’s three battalion chiefs and fire staff for stepping up while the town figures out a replacement. The town hopes to hire a new fire chief by March at the latest.
Engler has overseen the operation of the fire department since Marty deMasi announced his early retirement following the council’s controversial decision to cut Bob Lockhart’s fire marshal position.
The council ultimately decided saving a possible $60,000 a year eliminating the fire marshal role was worth the risk. Council members reasoned that they could hire outside help or contractors to do what Lockhart had done and still save money.
So far, Payson has called on Hellsgate Fire Department’s fire marshal for three inspections, Engler said.
Hellsgate has not billed the town for those calls yet. For all other building and fire inspections, the town has relied on building department staff and firefighters.
“I am very, very proud of the battalion chiefs,” Engler said. “They have really worked hard. I am proud of the entire fire department staff because they have operated very effectively and had to take on a lot of additional responsibilities recently and they have just done outstanding.”
Engler credited battalion chiefs Dan Bramble, Jim Rasmussen and Tom Fife for keeping things on track.
The men could soon have a new boss.
The town received 28 fire chief applications after a nationwide search that closed Dec. 5.
Town staff are now going through those applications and making sure they meet the basic qualifications, Engler said. Interviews are scheduled to start in mid January, but could be delayed because of the holidays.