Springfield’s longtime fire chief is leaving behind victories and challenges for the division following his retirement.
Chief Nick Heimlich became the head of the Springfield Fire/Rescue Division in 2010, shortly after the Great Recession in the late 2000s.
The division “had a series of a couple of years of decreasing budgets,” Heimlich said. “But, when I started, we were at the lowest point of budgeting over the last seven to 10-year cycle.” Heimlich said his goals included “trying to maintain services, maintain our equipment and facilities under pretty significant constraints.”
Learning how to manage that he said was his single biggest challenge. The division will spend close to $1.1 million to upgrade the vehicle fleet in 2018. Three new ambulances and a rescue truck will be the first new vehicles since 2010, according to Heimlich. The current rescue engine has been in service for about 20 years. Some others are at least 26 to 27-years old, he said.
“Many of the fleet vehicles were deferred replacements over the course of the last seven years and as a result of that we … need to move that process very aggressively,” Heimlich said.
That will be a significant portion of the next chief’s duties, he added.
In his career as chief, Heimlich was able to install an information management system the division could use to help make decisions.
“My primary objective for the organization was to connect everybody to the information,” Heimlich said. “Collecting data on all the medical runs we go on. All the fire runs we go on. All of our inspections that we do. The hydrants we maintain,” Heimlich said.
That system showed where activity was in the city and became instrumental when a station had to be shuttered earlier this year. Information from that system helped officials make an informed decision about what to close.
Assistant Chief Brian Miller is serving as acting chief until Tuesday when he becomes Springfield Fire/Rescue Division’s new chief. He said Heimlich did a lot to insure the success of the division.
“Chief Heimlich did most of the hard work. He weathered the storm and we kind of reached bottom and we are heading back up,” Miller said.
That is also due to a levy being passed earlier this year.
“We have some money to do some things. We haven’t won the lottery but we will be able to get some new equipment and do maintenance on the fleet and engine, (fire) houses,” Miller said.
Those improvements will come as the city makes way for new firefighters. There are currently eight recruits in training. The city charter calls for fire division staffed with 127 men and women.
Heimlich was scheduled to finish his last day on the job Friday, Dec. 29. He plans to begin teaching at Wright State University.