Ely Times Staff Writer
Brett Waters, White Pine County’s new Fire Chief, officially took over the county’s fire departments on Monday. Waters, a veteran fire chief from Montana, said the county told him to “take charge” and start getting their “fairly young” fire district organized.
“I think my biggest goal will be getting everybody working together and communicating well with each other as well as coming up with a fiscal plan to provide equipment, training and facilities that the county is going to need to move forward in the future,” Waters said.
The White Pine County Commission selected Waters from a pool of candidates based on his 30 years of experience in the fire service, amid other experience and training. Waters said he’s also extensively trained in handling wild brush and all risk fires and has emergency medical service training and consulting experience.
“I enjoy helping people,” Waters said. “It’s going to be fun to take an analysis of all the fire departments in the county. I’m going to take a look to see where they are at and what we can do to help improve those and then come up with some good plans to work well together as a team.”
Waters did have a rough exodus from his previous fire chief position in Belgrade, Mont. when he was charged with official misconduct.
The incident, which ended up leading to his resignation, involved Waters asking four on-duty firefighters to help him attach a porch to his house. According to court documents, the firefighters were using department equipment, and were delayed to responding to a drug overdose call. Waters had served as the Belgrade fire chief for close to 17 years.
“With every position there are politics involved,” he said. “That’s really the bottom line.
My background and experience in the fire service can talk for itself with what I have been able to do with organizations and collectively done with organizations. There are personalities and politics that across the nation can hurt or damage fire chiefs and police chiefs and that is a very common thing.”
With that behind him now, Waters said he has already hit the ground running and has a very busy week ahead of him as he moves into the community and starts to assess the state of the county fire departments.
“The biggest challenge is just going to be really getting a good understanding of all the different fire districts, the staffing that we currently have and the equipment that we have and the training that our personal has and coming back and looking at where do we need to go from there,” Waters said. “Whether that be facilities, equipment or training and then coming up with a good solid plan to implement those.”
His goal is to have that evaluation done in the next couple of months. Most importantly though he hopes to establish a good relationship with the seven fire stations, volunteer Ely firefighters and land management agencies. In the meantime, Waters will have to adjust to the size of the county, which he says is the biggest he has worked in.
“Population wise we are small but geographically we are very large,” he said. “That in itself will provide challenges on how to best provide service to citizens that are a distance away from our population center and our facilities.”