The City of Fairfax assumed control of its own fire and rescue services from Fairfax County this week, a move initiated by the city three years ago after members of the Volunteer Fire Department sought City Council support for city takeover of the department.
The director of the city's fire and rescue services is Joseph R. Gebauer, who came from the Alexandria Fire Department, where he was a battalion chief and training officer. Gebauer began his firefighting career in 1958.
The new fire department is manned with 39 officers and men including three shift commanders, six firefighter-cardiac care technicians, 12 fire officers and 17 firefighters.
The 17 firefighters have an average of 23 years of experience in firefighting and rescue services in cities throughout the United States, and some have as much as 20 years of fire fighting experience, the city reports.
The average length of experience of the three shift commanders is 13.3 years. Joseph Mellender was hired by the city after serving 19 years with the City of Alexandria Fire Department, where he attained the rank of captain. James Anderson is a veteran of 14 years with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Services, where he reached the rank of lieutenant. The City's third shift commander, Barry Baker, also served with the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Services, where he earned the rank of sergeant.
The 12 fire officers, each of whom will supervise an engine company or truck company, have an average of 5.6 years experience each.
The officers and men selected for the new fire department were chosen from more than 1,000 candidates from throughout the United States and Canada. Only three women applied for the positions, according to the Fire Department, and none was hired.
All members of the department have been undergoing intensive training for the past four months aimed at acquainting them with the specialized fire and rescue needs of the city. The program has included familiarization with all streets and addresses within the city limits as well as buildings that may require special attention in the event of a fire.
Among the new programs the Fairfax City Fire Department will offer is a home survey designed to pinpoint existing safety hazards in the home and to provide information and advice on how to correct the problems. Homeowners may call 385-7940 to request a visit by fire services personnel.
Although the city now controls its own fire and rescue services, the city will provide services to areas of Fairfax County located closer to city fire facilities than county facilities under a temporary agreement between the two jurisdictions.
The agreement will be effective through June. In the meantime, city and county representatives will try to develop a permanent fire services agreement, said Fairfax City spokesman Robert Becker.