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County launches search for fire chief’s successor

Chief DolanAbout seven years after Richard Dolan became Baker County’s first full time fire chief in charge of an all-volunteer firefighting force, the county is now searching for his successor. Mr. Dolan plans to retire at the end of this month, ending a career that began in 1979 as a volunteer firefighter in Jacksonville.

After 34 years in the stressful, physically demanding job putting out fires at all hours of the day and night, plus responding to countless car crashes and other accidents, Mr. Dolan said he wants to retire while he is still relatively healthy.

“I had six bypasses (heart surgery) three years ago,” the 60-year-old chief said last week after discussing the matter with county commissioners during a workshop session on April 2.

During a regular board meeting immediately following the workshop, the board voted 4-1 to seek a full-time replacement for Mr. Dolan, whose annual salary is $43,000, after rejecting a proposal offered by Commissioner James Croft to hire someone part time to do the job for $12,000.

During the workshop County Manager C.J. Thompson said the actual work performed by Mr. Dolan and the time he invests in the job clearly demonstrate that it is a full time role.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen him respond (to an emergency) in the middle of the night after working all day. It’s a 24/7 job,” Mr. Thompson said.

He then presented a tentative job description that he and David Richardson, head of the county’s Emergency Medical Services department, prepared for consideration. In addition to overseeing day-to-day operations and ensuring that firefighters are trained, the chief is  expected to perform “a variety of technical, administrative and supervisory work in planning, organizing, directing and implementing fire prevention and suppression to prevent or minimize the loss of life and property.”

The proposal also recommends the new chief have at least 10 years of experience in fire service, including a minimum of five years in a leadership or management position, and be trained and certified as both a paramedic and a life safety inspector.

Chief Dolan possesses neither qualification. He is certified to render aid as an emergency medical technician but has not had the more extensive medical training required of paramedics. The county pays Scott Crews, Macclenny’s fire marshal, $20 an hour to conduct life safety inspections, which typically are done on commercial construction projects.

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