By N3 News
There’s a new Fire Chief in town (and townships).
Travis Kroll was recently chosen for the position by the Fire Board after serving with the Newaygo Fire Department the past 5 years,
We caught up with Chief Kroll to pose a few questions and help introduce him to our readers.
How long have you been with the department?
I have been with Newaygo Fire Department since 2014.
What led you to join?
I wanted to do something that would make a positive impact on my community. At the time, I was part of a Rotary extension group that met in Newaygo. That is where I met Rob Pope, who was helping recruit for the department and he encouraged me to apply.
What do most people not know about our fire department?
I don't think most people realize we are a paid-on-call fire department. Unlike larger cities, we do not have someone at our fire station 24/7. Our members respond from their homes to the station during calls for service. They are leaving family dinners, birthday parties, and holiday events to help our community during a time of need. The volunteer/paid-on-call model makes up nearly 88% of the departments in the United States.
What do you feel is the role of a chief?
The role of the Fire Chief is to ensure the daily operations of the department run smoothly. My goal is to ensure our community is provided the best possible services within the budget we are provided. This includes ensuring a response when called, that emergency scene operations run well, staffing is appropriate and we are vested in our community.
Who have been your mentors?
I have been fortunate to have a few mentors during my time. Past Chief (current Firefighter) Jason Wolford was a large part in helping me understand how to best utilize my current skill set while learning new ones. I have to credit him with providing the tools and guidance needed to advance in my career in the amount of time I have. He has always been supportive and taken many of my ideas into great consideration during his time as chief. Former Deputy Chief Jason Cunningham was also a large influence on me helping to encourage me to get my SCUBA diving certification when I wasn't sure I could do it. He allowed me to grow in that area and eventually be the backup operations supervisor for our team. Finally, I would have to give credit to former member Rob Pope. If it were not for his initial encouragement, I would not be in the spot I am today. He was always one willing to listen and provide help as I learned and advanced through my career.
What is the biggest challenge facing the department?
The largest challenge facing the department is the lack of people willing/able to give up their spare time to be on a paid-on-call department. In today's society, time seems to be a limited thing. Unlike 20-30 years ago when most people lived and worked in the area, the majority of our area is now comprised of work commuters (those who live in the area but commute outside for work). We no longer have that group of people who are able to leave their job in the middle of the day to respond to a fire or rescue call. This creates a challenge of finding people that work various shifts or days, who can ensure we provide a response to calls 24/7.
How do you plan to address it?
I am working on various ways in which to help ensure our department is well staffed 24/7. This includes working with new, unique ways in which we recruit new firefighters. One recent change is allowing people to apply to be a firefighter or medical responder. Prior to that, you had to commit to obtaining both certifications which can be around 330 hours of training total. There are many individuals out there who may want to get their medical license, but not have to be a firefighter, and this is the perfect way to capture their help. I believe it is also important to market the family aspect of the department. It's not just the recruit that joins, but their family as well. We like to embrace them and let them know they now have an extended family made up of 19 firefighters and their families. All of us are here to help one another at a moment's notice.
The fire board members who serve as the representatives of the community have entrusted you with a vital job. Anything you would like to say to the people of our area?
I am very humbled to take on the role of Fire Chief for our department. This was not something I ever planned on achieving when I first joined. I would like our community to know that we deserve a professional, well training department, that is highly involved and attentive to the needs of our residents. I will do my best as the chief to get us there. I am always open to comments and feedback from our residents and welcome their input.
Anything else you would like to add?
The department is currently staff by 19 paid-on-call members within the community. in 2018, we set our new record of responding to over 600 calls for service. We cover 56 square miles which include the City of Newaygo, Brookstownship and 60% of Garfield Township. Our area also includes a large section of the Muskegon River and many lakes. We average around 48 calls per month responding to medical emergencies, fires, car accidents, water rescues and more.