Council backs new fire department structure

Published 10:36 am Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A grin was visible on Fire Chief Mickey Healey’s face at Monday night’s City Council meeting.

Council members voted unanimously to allow Healey’s proposal for a new command structure within the Austin Fire Department to move on and be revised by the Fire Civil Service.

Once the civil service makes changes to the three commanders’ job descriptions and approves the command structure, the issue will be sent back to the City Council for a final vote.

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Under the current command structure, there are 32 firefighters who report to one commander, and the commander reports to the chief. Healey wants to establish a chain of command that would have three commanders — one for each shift.

Healey has said the more thorough command structure would improve communication within the department, as well as efficiency with everyday tasks and emergency calls. He said the presence of a commander at every emergency scene could also improve safety practices, because the firefighters would always know who is in charge.

Healey has compared his need for a three-commander structure to that of the police department. The APD has several different ranks, including a chief, captain, lieutenants, sergeants and patrolmen.

There is no date scheduled for when the council will vote on the matter again.

Look to the Austin Daily Herald for more as this story develops.