By JEN CARDINES
Fire prevention has a new face in town. Battalion Chief Eric Heath has been appointed as the Southington Fire Depart-ment’s interim fire chief.
But don’t get too used to the long-time local official. Heath was clear that he doesn’t intend to apply for the open position, though he is happy to serve as acting chief during the search.
“I’m humbled and honored by the appointment, in addition to the trust and confidence the Board of Fire Commissioners has in me,” Heath said at a Feb. 7 Board of Fire Commissioners meeting when he was appointed as interim chief.
The position has been open since Feb. 12 when former chief Harold “Buddy” Clark served his last day with the SFD after his 39-year career. He began as a volunteer member before becoming a career firefighter in town. Through his years with SFD, he rose through the ranks to become Chief, and was recently certified as a Fire Marshal.
The Board of Fire Commissioners met on Feb. 7 to acknowledge Clark and to name Heath as the new interim chief effective Feb. 13. Commission chair Michael Bunko thanked the retiring chief for his dedicated service on behalf of the commission.
“He has steered this ship admirably, advocating for firefighter training, volunteer recruitment, new apparatus and increased manpower in light of a growing community,” Bunko said. “He leaves this department in solid shape looking forward to the future. He is to be thanked for his service and will be missed.”
The fire commissioners then unanimously voted to appoint Heath as interim/ acting chief while a search for a permanent one is conducted. Heath has been in the fire service since 1994 and joined the SFD in 1999.
In a press release, commissioners said that Heath “is also a Connecticut certified Fire Marshal and EMT, a National Pro-Board certified fire investigator, Fire Officer 2, fire instructor, and Fire Department Safety Officer, along with several other technical certifications and command level courses.”
Heath said that the interim period is six months, unless the search committee finds someone sooner. If the search takes longer, a mutual agreement will be made for Heath to remain as acting chief until the position is filled.
“I will strive to continue the ongoing collaborative processes that will move the department forward,” Heath said. “This will involve that all members focus on both the future of organization and the needs of the community.”
The interim chief said that assisting the department with the transition of Chief Clark’s retirement and appointment of the next Fire Chief is also a primary focus.
To comment on this story or to contact staff writer Jen Cardines, email her at JCardines@SouthingtonObserver.com.