AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Amarillo Fire Department added a third chief officer per shift as of Wednesday evening, who will respond from Fire Station #5 on Washington Street. The change will increase the minimum staff for each shift to 74 personnel, increasing the authorized force to 298 uniformed members.

According to the department, the decision was made to allow greater flexibility in providing citywide coverage for first-alarm and greater incidents and will help ensure essential command functions are effectively handled when multiple fire incidents happen at once. Further, the department said it will support a more effective and efficient administrative span-of-control, because shift chiefs will have fewer stations to supervise and will be able to give more time and attention to those under their watch.

AFD Capt. Jeremy Hill said adding a third chief and command unit has been a priority for Fire Chief Jason Mays since he took office.

“Over the last 50 years, we’ve been running with two units,” Cap. Hill said. “The city has grown considerably in that amount of time, so this is something that we need to do to get caught up, but also be prepared for future growth.”

According to Laura Storrs, the City of Amarillo’s interim deputy city manager and CFO, there has not been funding in the budget for these additions in recent years, until now.

“In this current year, this actually the budget that just went into effect, we were very fortunate. The appraised values came in strong. So we did see a growth in our property tax revenue,” Storrs said. “Our mayor, and our city council decided they wanted to move forward with funding this additional Fire District Chief position.”

City officials said the cost is $557,000, or approximately $185,000, for each of three new Fire District Chiefs to cover A, B, and C shifts this year. That includes salary, benefits, and equipment costs for those positions.

“Having an additional chief per shift will facilitate better protection by potentially reducing response times and ensuring that a chief officer is on scene faster to manage emergency operations,” said a release from the department, “This increased leadership presence will enable more efficient decision-making and resource coordination, ultimately enhancing emergency response capabilities on the fire ground and throughout our community.”

When AFD responds to a large event, Capt. Hill said this third unit will ensure operations continue.

“So for instance, the Circle N fire, we had all resources tied up as far as command staff and half the fire engines and we had another structure fire come in during that time,” he continued. “So this would allow us to have that third command unit go to that structure fire and begin operations.”

The incoming change will also allow for service programs to be expanded, according to the department, though specific details were not immediately disclosed, and increased leadership will allow the department to develop new initiatives focused on community safety as well as enhance currently-exiting programs.

“The Amarillo Fire Department remains committed to safeguarding the lives and property of the residents of Amarillo,” said the department, “Adding a third chief officer per shift underscores AFD’s mission of protecting the community.”

Capt. Hill said getting firefighters to occupants more quickly will make Amarillo safer.

“This is a best practice and we want to be a fire department that’s known to meet best practices and beat national standards,” Hill added. “So, this is something that a progressive fire department needs to do and we’re glad to be a progressive Fire Department.”

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