Apr. 21—Greeley Fire Chief
With that in mind, Kuznik spoke with the
Q: How did you first get interested in the fire service?
A: My first exposure to the fire service actually happened in
I think all along I knew that was something that would be of interest to me. Throughout high school my interest was there, but it was in my first year of college when I realized I wanted to make that happen.
I was actually going to school at the
They kind of laughed at me. You don't just show up at the doorstep and ask for an application to the fire service. But they pointed me to
From there, I sort of shifted focus on degree programs and obviously was focused on fire and EMS at that time. Then I was fortunate enough to get hired as a volunteer firefighter with
Q: How has the department grown throughout your career there?
A: When I was a volunteer, the turnover wasn't very significant. And the organization was a very senior organization. A lot of experience in the department.
I got hired in 1999 for the opening of
As the next several years went on, one of the most significant things is I've seen the demographics of the organization has changed. We're a young organization right now, and we have a lot of young, eager firefighters.
In many ways, they've helped change the organization, and so we've gone from maybe more of a traditional fire department to more of a progressive fire department. We've seen a lot of changes in not only how we operate because our folks are a lot more open-minded to new ideas in how we deliver our service, but also the technology that we're using today compared to where it was when I got hired 22 years ago — it's pretty amazing what we've seen in the capabilities of the technology and how we respond to some of these incidents.
And then obviously we've seen a lot of growth not only in the community, but in the fire department, the number of employees that we've seen. We've opened since my time in 1999 ... we opened
Q: Why the change in demographics?
A: I think it's probably cyclical. In the fire service, the demographic of the typical applicant probably falls in a range of 25-30 years old. And so when you do those large hirings, there will come a point in time when all of those folks are eligible for retirement, and so it kind of hits in waves. Even though we have a young organization right now, we'll see as my class gets closer to retirement age, there will be another opportunity for large hirings, as well.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges you anticipate facing in this role?
A: Obviously COVID is our No. 1 priority and concern right now.
I think our folks, as everybody else across the entire nation and world for that matter, are experiencing a level of fatigue from COVID. It's been challenging because our folks have been in masks since Day 1 of the pandemic. And that's difficult when you're working in an environment for 48 hours, and you have to eat and sleep — you're basically being told to wear your mask in your house.
But our folks have been resilient, and they've been great at adhering to the policies. Our commitment to the community was that we would keep our workforce healthy and safe and give them all the tools and PPE they needed to ensure that they could go home at the end of the day to their families, but that they were also healthy enough to ensure that no 911 call would go answered in this community because of COVID, one of our members being sick.
While we've experienced some sickness within the organization, we haven't had to close fire stations or shut down trucks or simply say we can't respond. So that's something I'm most proud of because our folks did all of the work in that regard.
For me, I want to be transparent with the community in what we do, who we are and what we stand for. So part of that is being able to provide information related to the services we provide and at what level we provide that service. We call that "performance measures."
So the fire department for the last several years has been operating under I would say what were outdated performance measures. So my priority for 2021 was to update our performance measures that were based off of national standards that were accepted around the nation. And our community should be able to see what those are.
We're going to revamp those performance measures and then get to a point where we can be proud of the service we provide. And it will help us identify gaps or areas of improvement.
I look at these as opportunities rather than challenges or issues. I understand the concept behind challenges and issues, but I'm going to look at them as opportunities.
So the other opportunity that I'm look at as well is the need to change or update and overhaul our policies and procedures for the fire department. When I think back to the foundation concept of how a paramilitary organization functions, there are a lot of policies that are involved. And especially where you're operating in hazardous environments, you have to have strict procedures to help keep people safe.
So we've made the investment to completely overhaul our polices, procedures and manuals in 2021.
We're excited about that, but that's a large amount of work to do for an organization of this size, and it takes a lot of people to review those and finally approve them. We're including multiple levels in the organization on that review process. We're including the
I want to be transparent and communicate with the members throughout the organization. I want them to know what my priorities are and what the priorities of the organization are, to help make sure they're in alignment with what our mission is here and exactly who we're serving.
I've talked to our members about the importance of providing the highest level of customer service possible with everyone we interact with. It's my hope that anytime one of our members interacts with a member of the community, whether it's from the business side of things or a customer who needs medical attention, we exceed their expectations. And it's my hope that we provide what I call a "white-glove level of service" to everyone we interact with.
Q: What's one thing you'd want the average
A: I'm ever-committed to ensuring that this organization provides nothing short of exceptional service, and I want them to know that I'm available and will make myself available to address any question or concern they have related to the fire department or the service we provide.
I want the fire department to be open to the community as well. We look forward to a day when the community can come back into our fire stations and when we can share with the community. I hope to be a part of that.
Q: What's one thing you'd want the average
A: I want the fire department to be embedded in the community in a way where it's a reflection of the entire community. I want people to know they can go to their neighborhood fire station and say hi to the firefighters, and I want the firefighters to be engaged within the community.
Q: Anything else you'd like to add?
A: I'm just honored to have been selected by the city manager and the fact that he has the trust and confidence in me to lead this organization. I'm indebted for that, I'm indebted to the organization for the support that they've given me as I sort of went through the last couple of months trying to process what was right for me and my family, the community and the department.
At the end of the day, I'm just happy to serve the community.
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