Special Operations & Training Division Chief Dwayne Jamison was named deputy chief of operations. Battalion Chief Bryan Keeling was appointed deputy chief of administration. Keeling’s replacement will be chosen at a later date from one of 13 captains.
Bartow County Fire Chief Craig Millsap said both men had been filling the roles — just without the titles — and the new structure provides a clear “line of succession.”
“... Our department has grown over the past years. ... The amount of people and the call volume has just kept going up and kept going up, and the administrative end of the department has just got to where it’s overwhelming for multiple people,” he said. “... It will be a godsend. ... There’s a lot of things that unfortunately have to be stuck to the side and those projects either don’t get followed up on in a timely manner or they just fall out all together. This way somebody can still be working on things.”
Jamison, a 26-year veteran of the department, will coordinate training and supervise command staff. With 90-something firefighters, he said the change was needed.
“... There are going to be a lot of changes in the department as far as, hopefully, better communication flow because everybody right now is so busy and they have so many roles,” Jamison said. “The battalion chiefs have so many different roles that they’re not able to supervise our people. So hopefully our goal is going to be to get the battalion chiefs back to being shift supervisors where they can focus on supervising their folks. Chief Keeling and myself can worry about all the special projects, we can worry about specifying equipment, purchasing equipment and take a lot of stuff off them administrative-wise that they were doing.”
Georgia requires firefighters to have 24 hours per year of accredited level training with ISO dictating an additional 16 hours per month of in-house company training. Jamison said officers and drivers require 12 more hours each and then a required hazardous materials training each year.
“That doesn’t count the special team stuff to keep their skills up, that’s just the basic firefighter stuff,” he said. “... We have 90-something career, we also have volunteers and we have part-time employees, so you have to keep up with the training records for all of those folks. So it’s extremely stressful trying to keep up with that. It’s a lot.”
Jamison, who is also the first vice president of the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs, said the department is evaluating structural fire attack techniques, a “huge” move.
“We’ve been teaching the same way of doing it for 20 years, but things have changed. Building construction has changed. There’s scientific research that now backs the training and shows the need for a change. It shows that what we’ve been doing wasn’t necessarily the most efficient way to do it and it certainly wasn’t the safest way of doing it,” he said. “... Basically our tactics are going to change to make it safer on our firefighters, but it’s also going to be more efficient with putting the fire out and being able to get in and rescue people and make it more tenable for somebody that may be inside the house. It’s a tactical change.”
Keeling is excited about the change but admits it will mean change.
“I am really looking forward to it, to the challenge and the change,” he said. “One of the big challenges for me is working 9 to 5. I’ve never had a 9 to 5 job. I’ve always worked shift work.
“… A lot of the things I’ve already been doing, but I’ll be doing them on a daily basis and seeing everybody every day and being able to be a little bit more efficient at what I do. In turn I hope the department becomes more efficient.”
Vehicles and facilities place high on the priority list for the new deputy chief of administration who will oversee purchasing, maintenance and personnel.
“We’ve got trucks ordered. We’re hoping to build a new fire station to replace that fire station later on this year,” he said. “… Station 9 is the one on Highway 61 just before the Paulding County line. We’re moving it at the intersection of Brown Farm Road and Friction Drive. We’ve bought a corner lot right there.”
Keeling said the department is also looking into options for a new headquarters.
“We’re still hoping to do something with our headquarters. We still don’t know yet what that’s going to be, whether it’s going to be a new fire station, a new EMS headquarters, a new fire headquarters, that is yet to be nailed down exactly what we’re going to do,” he said. “A lot of it is money driven. It’s how much money we have to do with.”