Town searching for fire chief

Published 11:49 am Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The town council of Westover is looking for a fire chief to go with the town’s soon-to-be-built fire station.

The application process to find a fire chief should start next week, said Mayor Mark McLaughlin. He said he expects to hire a chief within six weeks.

“The chief’s going to need to be someone who can make an immediate impact,” McLaughlin said. “The chief would need to be in the community in terms of knowing the lay of the land. There are a lot of good things already in place (with the fire department) that the chief can take and build upon.”

The town currently has a personnel contract with Cahaba Valley Fire Department, which will expire this fall. After hiring a fire chief, town officials also plan to hire experienced firefighters from the area to be part of the Westover Fire Department.

“Firemen and paramedics often work at multiple fire departments,” McLaughlin said. “It’s very common for a fireman to work at Pelham and then leave Pelham, take his Pelham shirt off and put on his Leeds shirt.”

Town officials are looking to have a firefighter trained in paramedics on duty 24 hours a day.

“I think that’s something we have to be able to provide,” McLaughlin said. “If it’s 2 in the afternoon and we have a wreck or a heart attack, we need to have someone on the scene in three or four minutes that has paramedic training. If we have someone at the station and they can get there and begin to stabilize the situation, I think that’s real important.”

Originally, town officials intended to hire a fire chief when the fire department was established last year, but it was necessary to go ahead and have the department operational, McLaughlin said.

“We needed to get it up and running as quickly as we could with paramedic and fire services,” he said. “We had the contract with another fire department for personnel to really get us out of the gate immediately.”

The primary goal for the town fire chief is to have someone trained on call and ready to assist Westover citizens at all times, he said.

“(We need) someone who’s really interested in growing with the department, someone who’s interested in taking the procedures and protocols that we’ve got in place and building on that,” McLaughlin said.

The growth of U.S. Highway 280 makes a fully functioning fire department even more critical for Westover.

“You’ve got a lot of people that live here, and a lot of people are moving here,” McLaughlin said. “If you have a wreck out there, you want to see help coming as quickly as it can.”