Fort Payne Fire and Rescue will have a new leader in the new year as the city council promoted Assistant Chief and Fire Marshal Stacy Smith to the big seat.
He replaces Ron Saferite, who served as chief since 2018, was assistant chief for four years before that and is retiring at the end of the year. Smith started in 1996 as a line firefighter, earning a promotion to lieutenant in 2011 before advancing to shift commander. As fire marshal, he’s been responsible for code enforcement in the city.
“I would like to thank the city council for this opportunity. I am excited about serving as Fire Chief and working with Mayor Baine and the council. A special thank you to Chief Saferite for the time I spent serving as Assistant Chief,” Smith said. “The FPFD is a very well trained and equipped fire department that provides valuable emergency services to the city, its citizens, businesses and the surrounding communities.”
Smith said it's been a privilege to work alongside the “fine individuals” who are committed to serving the city.
“They have provided a strong foundation that we will build upon as we move forward into the future,” he said.
Council member Johnny Eberhart nominated Smith at Tuesday’s meeting, saying he felt that his seniority gave him the edge.
“We interviewed three very good candidates who are all qualified,” Eberhart said. Council President Pro Tem Lynn Brewer seconded the nomination and the vote was unanimous. The Council did not name an assistant chief or fire marshal at Tuesday’s meeting.
Fort Payne Mayor Brian Baine and the Council interviewed Smith on Monday, as well as fellow applicants Scot Westbrook (the department’s training officer and EMS director) and battalion commander Wade Gorham. Sitting in on the interviews was Human Resources Manager Don Fischer, who brought a high level of expertise as the former fire chief before Saferite.
During the work session, Council members asked the firefighters about whether they would change any department policies, their leadership experience, how they would maintain the level of training and readiness if faced with the need to make budget adjustments and their opinion on better ways to communicate code requirements to new business startups and future emergency fire coverage needs on the south end of town. The men gave similar responses, citing the need to consult maps and the Insurance Services Office (ISO) so that any changes would not negatively affect the ratings used by insurance companies to set home insurance rates based on how well-equipped fire departments are to put out fires in a community.
Covering approximately 56 square miles, Fort Payne Fire and Rescue has an average response time of four minutes, earning an ISO Class 3 rating. The applicants also echoed agreement on the continued value of the city’s firefighter training facility, started in 2003 and now directed by Westbrook, which allows certified training to be done locally for surrounding departments.
They hold council meetings the first and third Tuesday of each month at 12:30 p.m. on the second floor of City Hall. FPTV live-streams meetings at https://bit.ly/FPCouncil.