Durham Fire and Rescue Chief Rob Tripp. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Durham’s newest Fire and Rescue Chief Rob Tripp began work on Monday with an eye toward reaching out to the community to help boost the department’s numbers.

The fire and rescue department operates through a paid per-diem membership list of around 40 people, roughly 20 of which are really active, Tripp said. The fire chief is the only full-time position, alongside one part-time administrator.

“It’s limited staffing,” Tripp said. “We’re always looking for new members, and it’s tough to draw from a pool of 4,000 residents.”

Between 2016 and 2020, Durham Fire and Rescue responded to over 400 calls each year, with a low of 402 in 2018 and a record high of 445 in 2016. As of Wednesday, the department has received 253 calls in 2021, 24% of which are for fire, 40% for emergency medical services and 36% for both.

Tripp said the department tries to have one person available, primarily for EMS purposes, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and then one person on-call after hours. Members perform a range of emergency service roles, and Durham frequently works with neighboring fire and rescue departments for support.

“The number one resource for Durham Fire is its personnel,” said Tripp. “They’re the ones at midnight, they’re the ones at 1 a.m. that come out and a lot of the population’s citizens don’t’ see it.”

 

Outside of the Durham Fire and Rescue Department. C. Thacher Carter / The Times Record

Outside boosting membership, Tripp said he plans to not make any changes for the first 100 to 200 days, and instead listen to and support members. He described his leadership style as coach, mentor-figure.

“Honestly it’s just about safety and keeping members safe,” Tripp said. “It’s now my responsibility to send them out with the gear and the equipment that they need to do their job and make sure they go home every day, after every call with all their fingers and toes.”

In terms of equipment, Tripp said he believes the department is holding its own. The department has a boat, one ladder truck, two pumper trucks, a tanker truck, a brush fire truck and an ambulance.

Tripp has more than 30 years’ experience as a firefighter in Massachusetts, Maine and Colorado. He has an associate’s degree in emergency medical services, a bachelor’s degree in fire science and is pursuing a master’s degree in emergency management. His annual salary is $70,000.

According to Durham Fire and Rescue Office Manager Capt. Diana Dimock, Tripp was selected out of three applicants and is taking the position of former Fire Chief Joseph Moore, who left in May for personal reasons. Moore has since taken a position at Rockland Fire and EMS Department, said Dimock.

Dimock said that Tripp was chosen “due to his extensive training and experience in Fire and EMS.”

Outside of work, Tripp said he enjoys yard work, following New England sports and traveling with his wife. Before Durham, he worked at Duxbury Fire Department in Massachusetts.

This story was updated at 3:12 p.m. Sept. 23, 2021, to correct the name of the fire department where Moore is working.


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