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Strahan could become permanent Greenfield fire chief by end of week

GREENFIELD — It appears the town’s provisional fire chief might become permanent by the end of the week.

Mayor William Martin has received the Public Safety Commission’s recommendation to appoint Robert Strahan as the town’s permanent fire chief.

Strahan, who was deputy chief until a year ago, has been serving as provisional chief since Michael Winn left for a job as fire chief on Cape Cod.

Strahan and Greenfield Fire Capt. Edward Jarvis were the only two in the local department to apply for the permanent position. They both participated in the town’s Civil Service-approved assessment process.

The town had two choices: to have candidates take the annual written Civil Service test and wait for the state to come up with three candidates or use a private company approved by Civil Service to give a test and conduct day-long oral interviews.

Typically, both the commission and fire chief make recommendations, but because the town has no permanent chief and one of the candidates is serving as provisional chief, the mayor received only the commission’s recommendation.

Martin said he will make a decision by the end of the week.

According to Civil Service rules, Martin could agree with the commission, choose Jarvis or decide to wait until Greenfield has three candidates to choose from for the position. If he chooses to wait, the town will be at least another year without a permanent chief, but Strahan could continue to serve as provisional.

While Martin said he plans to follow Civil Service rules when making his choice, he did not say which way he was leaning on Tuesday.

Civil Service also requires that candidates are ranked numerically, but Strahan’s and Jarvis’ scores were the same.

Strahan started his career as an emergency medical technician when he was 17. He said he soon learned he would have to also become a firefighter if he wanted to get a job and he said he fell in love with the profession immediately.

He worked for Gill Fire Department for five years, while also working for the state Department of Conservation and Recreation.

Strahan took the Civil Service exam in 1997 and became a captain on the Greenfield force in 2003 while he also served as fire prevention officer.

In 2007, he was promoted to deputy chief and in May 2013 to provisional chief.

Strahan’s experience and education earned him accreditation from the state Fire Service Commission in May.

“My end-goal is to make the department better than when I got here,” he said. It has been an honor to lead it, so far.”

Strahan said he is a go-getter with good communication and problem-solving skills.

“I plan to set the tone for the department and steer the ship on the right course,” he told the commission Monday.

In the end, the commission decided that Greenfield’s Fire Department is running well as is and its members didn’t want to change anything.

“You don’t tinker with something that’s not broken,” said commissioner Frederick Clark. “These are two excellent candidates. One is more executive (Strahan) and one is more operational (Jarvis).”

Commissioner Gary Longley said he likes that Strahan and Jarvis each bring their own strengths to the department and should continue to do so in the positions they’ve held over the past year.

“We benefit from their team right now,” said commissioner Skip White.

Jarvis started on the Greenfield call force in 1987 and was hired as a permanent, full-time firefighter in 1991.

He later was promoted to shift captain and served in that position for three years. He then became fire prevention captain and served in that position for another three years.

More than a year ago, Jarvis became provisional deputy chief. He would have to apply and go through the Civil Service process to become permanent deputy chief.

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