While the Independence Fire Department recognizes its 175th anniversary this week – with a big celebration planned for later in the summer – its leader has been on the job less than two months.
Doug Short, who had been deputy chief of administration since 2014, took over as fire chief after Christmas when John Greene retired. Short, 49, joined the Independence Fire Department in 2012 as battalion chief of prevention.
Before that, the Higginsville native had been fire chief of the West Peculiar Fire Protection District in Cass County from 2005-12. He started his career with the Fort Osage Fire Protection District as a firefighter/paramedic and later served as a vocational education instructor at the Fort Osage Career & Technology Center.
Short originally went to college for education but decided after two semesters that wasn't for him, he said. While working at a grocery store, he had some friends whose parents were volunteer firefighters, which intrigued him. When Short gave that a shot, he said, he was hooked. Short earned his bachelor's of public administration in fire service management from Park University and is working toward a masters of education in adult and organizational learning.
Chief Short recently sat down with The Examiner to answer a few questions.
Examiner: When Chief Greene announced his pending retirement in September, had you been planning to apply for the job?
Chief Short: I've been in the fire service for 30 years and had been a chief until five years ago. I kind of knew this was something I wanted to do, to work up into this position. I had a lot of duties that were budgetary, and I knew the direction the department was going and had input on a lot of things.
I had been with smaller fire departments prior. One thing that drives me is a challenge, and I saw a larger department as a good challenge. My wife is from Independence, so I didn't want to move out of the metro area. Having been involved in education, I still had a lot of contacts here and in the metro area.
E: How much does that education background help as a chief?
CS: We're lifelong learners in the fire service; we have changes daily (in equipment, tactics, etc.). I know what drives people in education.
E: What is going well with the department that you want to keep going?
CS: There's been some great strides in communication between management and labor and the city. Keeping things moving forward is important, and setting up core values, that's probably my biggest goal. It's easier to move forward on issues where you need to move forward if there's good communication, like with the cancer prevention (agreement).
E: What's the biggest issue, moving forward, that you are facing?
CS: We have to deal with the sheer number of responses. It's been close to a 30 percent increase in the last five years, and we have to be able to handle that. We have four pumpers running over 3,000 calls per year. A majority of our calls are medical, but everything seems to be moving at that same pace, not just EMS.
E: Beginning your time as chief when the department is celebrating 175 years, what does that mean to you?
CS: That's definitely an honor that this comes at my time period. It's not my anniversary; it's the department's, and to be the voice of that is exciting. Fire chiefs get to talk a lot, but it's usually not about positive things. This is one of those things that will be positive.
E: What did you observe from Chief Greene that can help you as his successor?
CS: The sheer experience from someone who's been here, for 30 years, in the department. He had that knack to know what was going on throughout the department, with each guy. He didn't separate himself from what the department was about.