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Randy Burbank named to Effingham Fire Chief position

December 16, 2010
EFFINGHAM — Nine months after they were given the go-ahead by voters, Effingham selectmen have announced Randy Burbank will be the town's new volunteer fire chief, effective March 2011.

Burbank started in the fire service at the age of 16 as a junior member on the Bedford, N.H. Fire Department. At age 22 he became a full-time certified firefighter and retired as a lieutenant after 23 years. Burbank spent family vacations at White Lake State Park when he was a child and knew he someday wanted to live in the area. So upon his retirement he moved his family to Effingham, where they built a log cabin.

Enjoying his retirement, he said, he had no intention of joining the fire service back in 2001 until one day a member of Effingham Fire Department came knocking on his door to sell raffle tickets for a department fundraiser. The member encouraged him to come down to the station and he was talked into signing up.

Throughout the past decade Burbank, who is also a licensed emergency medical technician (EMT), has served on the department and for many of those years as the town's emergency management director. With his help, the town has been able to get many grants to pay for new equipment including all new gear for firefighters, a thermal imaging camera, a cascade system used to refill air bottles, an exhaust removal system to clean toxins from the air in the fire station, and generators for the town office building, elementary school and fire station.

Burbank said his first priority as chief will be to build a trained roster of members who are certified to respond to emergency calls. Currently there are 24 members on the roster with only six that are certified to go into burning buildings. Three of those people are also EMTs and three members hold just their EMT certification.

Burbank will also be working to develop solid working relationships with fire chiefs of surrounding towns. He plans to meet with each of them to hear any concerns they have about working with the Effingham department and to try to resolve any issues in this area that is heavily dependent on mutual aid from abutting departments.

He will also set to work updating and implementing revised SOPs (standard operating procedures) and policies to govern the way the department will operate.

The process of appointing a fire chief started at the March 2010 annual meeting when the townspeople here were asked to vote to change the way a fire chief is selected. Previously, the town's chief was elected by the members of the fire department. Town meeting voters voted to eliminate that method and instead give the power to selectmen to appoint a chief.

Selectmen then worked with N.H. Local Government Center to aid them in the selection process. Selectmen made it very clear that they wanted no part in the process so as to remain impartial. The position was advertised and applications accepted by NHLGC who put the applicants through initial screening and interview sessions. The candidates were rated on a scoring system. Next, without knowing the outcome of the NHLGC screening process, a citizens review committee of five appointed by the board of selectmen was asked to interview the candidates and rate them each using the same scoring system. NHLGC then informed selectmen of the recommendation they made as well as the recommendation of the committee.

Further, said Burbank, he was subjected to a polygraph test and psychological evaluation before being officially offered the job.

Burbank also serves on the town's budget committee and is waiting for word on whether he can still hold that position or if it is a conflict with the fire chief's position.

Unlike most surrounding towns, Effingham does not pay its fire chief a salary but rather a small stipend at the end of the year. Obviously, taking the job was not for the money so why would someone accept the position on a department that has been under much scrutiny in recent years?

"I saw the way the department was going. It was leaving itself and the town open for lawsuits. I have the training and the experience and as a taxpayer and resident here I had to help the town," said Burbank.

The new fire chief officially takes office March 12, 2011.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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