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Fire chief finalists to visit community

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LAFD: Five hopefuls set to go through the paces Thursday and Friday.

By Carol A. Clark

Los Alamos County Fire Chief Doug Tucker postponed his retirement scheduled this summer following the May resignation of Deputy Chief Patrick Sleik, who after just 11 months on the job said it “wasn’t a good fit” for him.

Going back to the drawing board, Tucker and other county officials launched a nationwide search for someone who would be the right fit to lead the state’s second largest fire department.

“We had at least a dozen qualified applicants from which we narrowed the list down to five,” said Acting Assistant County Administrator Steven Lynne Tuesday.

There are no internal candidates, he said, adding that the finalists are either currently employed as fire chiefs or are former fire chiefs.

“The five finalists will meet with a panel of staff members, take written exams and go through other activities during the assessment process on Thursday and Friday,” Lynne said.

If all goes well, officials intend to present their final choice for fire chief to the county council for approval Sept. 27.

Tucker has said that he will not retire until his replacement is set. He retired from the Phoenix Fire Department in May 1994 and moved to Los Alamos that same month to serve as assistant chief of operations for LAFD. Tucker was promoted to deputy chief in 1996 and fire chief in 2009.   

Tucker has served more than 40 years in the fire service. In 1969, he joined the Phoenix Fire Department.

As a firefighter, he was selected along with 11 others to become the first group of Rescue Medics in the State of Arizona. As a paramedic captain, he received the department’s Award of Merit for his efforts in the development, training and dedication to the High Angle & Technical Rescue Team as well as the 1981 Paramedic of the Year.

LAFD provides a multi-disciplined, multi-dimensional mission of fire, rescue, emergency medical, public education and life safety services to Los Alamos County.

Included in the services LAFD provides are the protection of Los Alamos National Laboratory, protection of the Los Alamos and White Rock communities and emergency response for urban wildland interface.

LAFD was organized under the Manhattan Project in April 1943. At that time it consisted of seven civilian firefighters and 25 volunteer firefighters. In September 1943, the firefighter functions were taken over by the military. The Fire Department was governed by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission and the U.S. Department of Energy until the county took it over in September 1989.

Today, LAFD operates six fire stations with 150 budgeted positions, 130 shift firefighters including three shift battalion chiefs, nine chiefs and staff officers and 11 civilian support staff.