Kiernan Contributed / Jon Kiernan

New Gloucester’s new fire/rescue chief, Jon Kiernan, started work last month, the same day he arrived in town by way of Oklahoma.

The 19-year veteran of the profession took over the department some eight weeks after former chief Toby Martin’s sudden resignation and departure. Martin’s short tenure was marked by high turnover within the department, including seven members’ resignations during his first year on the job.

Personnel interviewed said they are hoping Kiernan will bring strong leadership skills to the job.

Kiernan most recently served as the fire chief and emergency manager for the Iowa Tribe of Oklahoma, a federally recognized tribe of about 800 enrolled members based in the city of Perkins. He spent most of his career at the fire department in Enid, Oklahoma, a town of about 50,000 in the north central part of the state. There, he worked his way up from firefighter to captain and then training chief, before leaving in 2015 to work with his sons for a year.

“I’d lived in Oklahoma and been in the fire service for 20-some years,” but always wanted to come out to the East Coast, Kiernan said. When the job in New Gloucester popped up, he said “it was time for a start in a new place and try something different.”

Kiernan has taught firefighting and emergency medical services courses for 17 years and started working on emergency management, “a very unique, growing field,” when he was with the Iowa Tribe.

The town manager’s proposed budget for next year combines the fire chief position with emergency medical attendant and town health officer, and boosts New Gloucester’s 24/7 emergency medical services.

Among his short-term goals are to review existing emergency management plans and make sure the department is immediately prepared in case of an emergency.

In the long-term, Kiernan said he’ll update and submit the plans to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which once approved, can open up a number of grant opportunities.

The biggest difference from Oklahoma to New Gloucester will be the shift in focus from woodland fires and tornadoes to snow and ice, he said.

Last year, the department had an unusually high number of calls for service, 618, with the highest volume during the winter months.

In a review of the department’s call log data from March of 2019 to February of this year, the vast majority of the 996 calls were for emergency medical services, which Kiernan said is typical of almost every fire department.

Besides false alarms or canceled calls, structure fires and electrical wiring/equipment issues made up the second highest majority of calls.

Deputy Chief Craig Bouchard, who served as interim chief during the hiring process, said earlier this week that Kiernan brings a “renewed outlook” to the department.

“I’m just hoping that Jon can bring good leadership skills and keep moving the department forward,” said Mary Rich, EMS Chief and 28-year veteran of the department.

Captain/Paramedic Hale Fitzgerald, who has been with NGFR for a combined 8½ years, said he hopes for the same and is looking for greater recruitment and retention among personnel.

“It’s important to create a culture where there’s a lot of buy-in, where people feel like they’re part of something so that we can continue to have good numbers on call,” he said.

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