OCEAN CITY – Ocean City Fire Department Chief Chris Larmore says he couldn’t have hand picked a better group of men to promote.
The Ocean City Fire Department filled the spaces in its new ranking structure with seven veteran firefighters, boasting 115 years of combined experience in the local fire ranks, and took yet another step in creating a unified organization that’s dedicated to better equipped to serve the community.
The City Council approved Larmore’s request to restructure the ranks on both the volunteer and career sides of the department in January, and Larmore introduced the seven promoted members of the department to the Mayor and Council at Tuesday’s work session at City Hall after a lengthy but “well-worthy” process.
The council welcomed new Assistant Chief (Chris Shaffer), four new captains (Bryan Bishop, Rex Foxwell, Eric Peterson and Guy Rickards), and two promoted volunteer members (Will Savage and Josh Bunting) to a standing ovation and overwhelming support as Tuesday’s introduction came just one month shy of the year anniversary of the decision to merge the volunteer, career and EMS divisions into one unified department.
“I get asked all the time how the merger has gone, and I liken it to if you were to merge three top NFL football teams together, well most likely, you’d never lose a game, and that’s how we feel,” said Larmore. “We were set up for success from day one, and I thank the Mayor and Council for keeping that promise.”
Larmore explained the four-part process in which the applicants were chosen, including written essays, exams and two rounds of interviews, the last of which with Larmore himself.
“Many of the questions weren’t just about what would you do in certain situations,” explained Larmore via phone interview. “A lot of them really had to do with ethics, integrity and loyalty to our new merged department.”
Larmore said that even he was surprised how far the merged department had come in less than a year, citing this new ranking structure as a notable benchmark.
“I had hoped that we’d get this far this soon, but in all honesty, I didn’t think we would be here yet,” said Larmore. “These new officers have the training and the experience that I believe are second to none.”
Mayor Rick Meehan also noted the announcement as a memorable moment in the merged department’s short history.
“This is another milestone that we’ve reached with the Ocean City Fire Department and this creates some parallel ranks within the various components of the department,” said Meehan. “I think that was one of the goals that the chief had and that we had when we entered on this new direction, so I thank all of you for helping us to get to where we are today.”
Interestingly enough, these promotions don’t equate to increased salaries for these gentlemen. In fact, Larmore said it’s quite the opposite.
“They were all covered under the collective bargaining agreement that guaranteed them 48-hour work weeks, and now, with this move to management, which only pays them for 40 hours per week, they will all be taking a modest reduction in pay,” said Larmore.
Obviously, the question that comes next is why someone would want a position that pays less than their current one, but Larmore contested that it shows the character of the men and noted the value in moving up into management.
“I said before that I thought that one of the men we chose would be the next fire chief, and I still believe that any of the men that were promoted, as well as the members in our current command staff could fill that role,” said Larmore.
Larmore also noted that when the newly promoted members submitted their first schedules, they actually had allotted 42 hours for themselves each week, thus donating two hours of their time to the city, in order to meet departmental goals and improve overall efficiency, according to Larmore.
“We can’t compensate as a city or begin to recruit from anywhere, the passion or the heart of these gentleman, that’s a trait that comes from within,” he said.
It’s notable that while walking into City Hall on Tuesday, several fire department vehicles sat outside bearing the same new seal, logo and slogan. They were easily viewable and perhaps were there to showcase the unified new look of the department.
The happenings inside the hall on Tuesday with the promotion of these new officers was seemingly just as notable.
“It’s nice to see everyone on the same side of the room and wearing the same colors,” said Larmore.