DeKalb Fire Chief strengthens department

By Taylor Thanos

“Relationships, trust and planning are the words that motivate me,” said DeKalb Fire Department Chief Bruce Harrison.

After being an active department member for over 20 years, Harrison, who believes he is simply “just the face” of the state-recognized department, has played a part in strengthening the DeKalb Fire Department‘s community relations.

Within the last two years Harrison and his firefighters have brought the fire department into the Northern Illinois Communiversity Incident Management Team. Before Harrison became fire chief in 2009, the DeKalb Fire Department did not have a defined role on campus. Harrison said he understood that in order to supply the best emergency assistance services to the DeKalb area, certain relationships needed to be established.

“Chief Harrison is definitely a team player who constantly strives to improve service delivery,” said DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen. Feithen, Harrison and other officials have come together to keep not only the community safe but the NIU campus as well.

Working alongside one another has allowed effort to be put into planning out Incident Action Plans for certain NIU events.

Among other objectives these plans are to ensure safety to all members of the NIU community.

“One of our biggest events that we plan for is NIU Homecoming week,” Harrison said.

These IAP meetings, though important, are only one aspect of the department’s many special operations.

“No one has a single job here, especially with the financial crisis right now everyone is doing as much as they can,” Harrison said. All of Harrison’s administrators maintain a busy schedule in different hazard prevention and rescue effort programs called Special Operations.

Captain Jeff McMaster explains, “The DeKalb Fire Department is unique and a great place to work because of the diverse amount of emergency calls we have a chance to assist with. One minute it could be a high rise fire at NIU, an agricultural fire in DeKalb corn fields or a serious car accident.”

The fire department never knows what kind of calls it will receive so it must be prepared in all aspects of rescue services.

“The DeKalb County Fire Department uses an all hazard approach and understands it must be prepared for anything,” Harrison said. “This is why developing more efficient partnerships and planning is so important.”

After meeting frequently with members of the department and even spending a night on call with some of Harrison’s men, DeKalb Mayor Kris Povlsen said he appreciated the quality of the staff.

“We have highly trained and highly dedicated people that do their job very well,” Povlsen said.

With over 5,000 emergency calls a year and over 20 years of experience Harrison does not have a particular memorable moment on the job simply because it is not just about the big events, he said.

“As firefighters we work 24 hours a day, seven days a week and to be able to assist even the smallest of emergencies is an honor and what makes my job so incredible,” Harrison said.