The Fort Smith Fire Department promotes seven firefighters at it realigns its staff in preparation for the opening of Station 11 this winter.
The promoted staff members will assume their new positions at 6:30 a.m. Monday when the city transitions from a one-battalion command structure to two. According to Chief Mike Richards, having two battalions and two battalion chiefs will improve public safety.
"(The battalion chiefs) can help reduce property damage," said Richards. "Make it safer for the people. Make it safer for our firefighters."
Richards said the battalion chief must respond to every emergency situation as well as manage about 50 firefighters during their shift. The battalion chief is posted at Station 1 in downtown Fort Smith, and it can take nearly 20 minutes for them to reach the far south and east sides of town.
"We need to have everyone on scene and being managed in eight to ten minutes at the most," said Richards. "It's actually going to cut a response time down for a supervisor to almost half."
Boyd Waters, one of the newly promoted battalion chiefs, said the new structure will ensure the city is always covered.
"If there's a structure fire right now or a major call, the battalion chief right now, he's out on that call," said Waters. "So it kind of leaves the city open as far as having that command there."
Current firefighters with the department will shift over to Station 11 when it opens. Nine new firefighters have been hired to fill the vacancies - they begin training at the Fire Academy in Camden, AR in October.
The restructuring is all part of the overall Fire Improvement Plan that is still ongoing with the opening of Station 11 with funding coming from the 1/8 cent sales tax approved by voters in 2012.
Richards said Station 11 is on track to open by late December or early January.
Lisa Johnson, Chris Plank and Jared Rice - Driver
Brandon Sharp - Captain
Phil Christensen, Boyd Waters and Ted Abbey - Battalion Chief