GREENVILLE — An ad hoc committee of the Greenville City Council will recommend the retention of the assistant fire chief position for the city’s fire department following a Tuesday morning session at the Municipal Building in Greenville.
The committee, chaired by Council Member Tracy Tryon and composed of Council Members Todd Oliver and Steve Willman, reviewed information submitted by Greenville Safety/Service Director Curt Garrison and Greenville Fire Chief Mark Wolf, following a committee request for more data during a March 8 meeting.
The primary question under consideration by the committee was whether or not to retain the position of assistant fire chief if current Assistant Fire Chief Dave McDermitt retires. McDermitt told the committee he has not decided if he is retiring, but stated “there is a very good possibility.”
In a previous meeting, the possibility of hiring one or two part-time employees to take over the duties of the position, or splitting the duties among existing personnel, was discussed. Garrison and Wolf urged the committee to maintain the position, citing the many job duties performed by the assistant fire chief and the prospect of diminished public safety if the position were to be eliminated.
Among the more vital duties performed is the annual inspection of commercial and industrial sites in the city. In the prior session, Chief Wolf told the committee that inspections were approximately 50 percent behind schedule due to staffing cutbacks in the fire department and it would get further behind if the job was cut.
McDermitt provided the committee more insight on his current duties, particularly as it pertains to inspections and the time involved in performing the task.
“If it’s a major fire alarm test, say, out at Whirlpool, it takes about three hours,” he said, as an example. “It could take as little as one hour… it can be an arduous process.”
McDermitt also explained that a good portion of his time is spent in training other firefighters and making sure the department is up to date on the latest state regulations.
The assistant fire chief has been a certified fire inspector since 1986 and has built a foundation of knowledge over the past 30 years that won’t be easy to replace.
“It’s a very entailed and detailed position,” he said. “I can tell you it has changed dramatically. There are more intertwinings between the fire and building codes than there ever has been before…the amount of knowledge required for this position, just to stay up on the code, is pretty high.”
“I’ve been in [the assistant fire chief] position since December of 2002. I’ve learned a lot of nuances, a lot of things which help me get through it and an awful lot of code research.”
“People call every day. There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not digging into code somewhere to get somebody an answer,” he added.
McDermitt also explained that he fills in for the fire chief on occasion, as well as investigates suspicious fires in conjunction with law enforcement and the state fire marshal.
Given the importance of the job, both to the department and the city, all three council members expressed a desire to retain the position as it currently exists. The committee will submit its recommendation to the full council at the next meeting on April 5.