A new Amherst fire chief will be sworn in Jan. 5 as Wayne Northeim retires.
Greg Knoll has been named successor.
“It’s a chance for a second full career,” said Knoll, who has worked more than 30 years for Bettcher Industries in Birmingham, now retiring as a national accounts manager.
Though he calls it a second career, the new chief is no stranger to firefighting. He’s been with the AFD since 1988 and is a licensed fire inspector and fire prevention expert, serving as assistant chief since 2011.
Knoll estimates responding to about 5,000 calls in the past 27 years.
“I’ve always had the philosophy that people call the fire department when they don’t know who else to call. They’re at their greatest need. It’s nice to be a member of the community who can be there to help,” he said.
Goals for 2016 and beyond include replacing self-contained breathing apparatus purchased with a $200,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, possibly replacing a 20-year-old rescue truck, and focusing on fire prevention training.
The latter means talking about EMS education, teaching CPR, making sure the public knows the signs of stroke or heart attack, and instructing older residents in best practices for preventing falls.
“We’ve spent the last 25 years educating on fire safety as a nation. Fire calls are down,” Knoll said. “Actual fire is down versus what it was 20 years ago and a lot of that goes back to education. Hopefully teaching people about how to be safer in other areas and identifying when there is a problem will help.”
Another goal, the new chief said, is to treat Amherst residents more like customers and make sure they are satisfied with the service they receive.
As Knoll is promoted, others will also move up the command structure.
Capt. Brandon Dimacchia will become assistant chief, Lt. Ron Campana will be promoted to captain, and John Tomlinson will be named a lieutenant.
Those three will also be sworn in to their new roles Jan. 5.
Northeim said in 13 years as chief he’s replaced seven Amherst fire vehicles and is leaving firefighters with top-of-the-line equipment.
“Keeping the guys safe has always been number one,” he said. “Giving them good equipment to operate has been an important part of that.”
The outbound chief voiced thanks to the administration of mayor David Taylor for its support over the years. But he said his department would not be where it is today without overwhelming support of voters who backed fire levies.
Northeim’s last day on the job will be Jan. 8 though his actual retirement date is June 1. He’ll take the first half of 2016 off through accrued time.
Prior to becoming the full-time chief, he ran a painting and wallpaper business and plans to return to it now.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Greg Knoll will be sworn in Jan. 5 as Amherst’s new fire chief. He has served as assistant chief since 2011.