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Nome Volunteer Fire Department Gains New Acting Chief

Jerry Steiger in the foreground of a fire in Teller on July 12, 2012. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM.

The Nome Volunteer Fire Department has a new Acting Chief— Jerry Steiger. City Manager Josie Bahnke appointed Steiger to the job last week.

Explaining the changeover, Steiger said, “There was a transition of the Chief position on last Friday. The Chief Works are appointed by the City Manager, and she made a decision to relieve the Chief Matt Johnson.”

Former Chief Matt Johnson volunteered for the Fire Department for 24 years, serving seven of those years as Fire Chief. During that time, Steiger was Assistant Chief.

Now with the position of Fire Chief in need of filling, Steiger said the Fire Department is working to select a qualified candidate from within its ranks.

“The current situation,” Steiger explained, “is that the officers of the organization of the Nome Volunteer Fire Department are reviewing our personnel to be able to make a recommendation to the City Manager on the qualifications, first of all, and then a recommendation on who should be the next Chief and also the process of how that process will be done.”

But that process is still being figured out. Over the 75 years Nome’s Volunteer Fire Department has been operating, only four Chiefs have lead the organization.

“So each of those Chiefs have been appointed by probably a little bit of a different method each time,” Steiger said. “So it’s not a position that has been routinely appointed, so I think that’s where the process here is in the works.”

In the meantime, Steiger says the Fire Department has the resources it needs to operate in the city’s best interest.

“The big emphasis,” said Steiger, “is that the community is safe. We are one Fire Department. We all are volunteers. We have decades of committed people to the Fire Department, and so we definitely do not lack in any kind of leadership as far as years of experience in running the Fire Department.”

Steiger said the Fire Department plans to make a recommendation for Chief to the City Manager for her to present as a candidate to the City Council by the end of August.