Fire chief steps down

BUCKHANNON — Buckhannon Fire Chief Jim Townsend has resigned “for family and health reasons,” he said Tuesday.

Townsend — who was hired in June 2016 to replace former longtime fire chief Mitch Tacy — told The Record Delta Tuesday that he resigned effective immediately for personal reasons.

“I don’t have any comment other than that,” added Townsend, who is from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.

Finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said Monday city officials received an email from Townsend late Friday night.

“He resigned effective immediately for personal reasons, and we wish him the very best,” Jenkins said. “The city is planning on appointing (captain) J.B. Kimble as interim chief at its meeting Thursday. J.B.’s been there since 2001. We have six full-time firefighters, so we’re good. J.B., Joey (Baxa) and Brian (Elmore) have a combined 60 years of experience.”

Approving Townsend’s resignation and appointing Kimble to serve as interim fire chief are on the agenda of a special meeting city council meeting that has been scheduled for Thursday at 3:30 p.m.

Kimble on Monday said residents need not worry about Townsend’s departure detrimentally impacting the fire department’s services.

“He’s back in California already,” Kimble said, “but we’re a good organization, and while losing your leader is not the best thing, it won’t affect our responses or anything. It won’t affect our service one bit.”

In addition to Kimble, Lt. Joey Baxa and Lt. Brian Elmore serve as officers, while the BFD has three other full-time, or career, firefighters, including Linn Baxa, Tanner Smith and John Brugnoli.

Mayor David McCauley said city officials wish Townsend the best and will be moving as quickly as possible to fill the vacancy he’s leaving behind.

“He’s got stuff in California he’s tending to,” McCauley told The Record Delta Monday. “He just basically indicated his availability was going to be compromised for many months, so he thought it was best if he step aside. He’s a fine man and was an excellent spokesman for the fire department. Naturally, we wish him all the best in all that life has to offer.”

“In the meantime, we’ll be doing the same drill we did about two years ago at this time,” the mayor added.

McCauley said hiring a new fire chief is “conservatively” a three-month process, which includes advertising the position, conducting interviews, consulting with paid fire staff and making an offer.

“There’s a lot of hoops to jump through with these things,” McCauley said.

McCauley echoed Kimble in saying the fire department’s services won’t be compromised while the city conducts a job search.

“The City of Buckhannon is in excellent hands,” he said. “We have six paid firefighters, and three of them are very seasoned and senior members, and the three young guys are just performing gangbusters.”

The city’s firefighters remain committed to pursuing accreditation through the Commission on Fire Accreditation International, McCauley added.

And although Townsend will no longer be serving as fire chief, he hasn’t ruled out an eventual move back to Upshur County.

“I still may be moving to Buckhannon, but not tomorrow or next week,” Townsend said. 

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