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New fire chief takes over

As of today, January 1, there'll be a new chief in town.

A new fire chief, that is.

Jeff Karrow took over the role from Shane Schmidt, who has been chief of the Alexandria Fire Department for the past six years.

The maximum time someone can serve as chief is three, two-year terms.

Schmidt has been a member of the department for the past 21 years. He will remain on the department until he decides to retire.

Karrow, who owns Karrow Jewelers in Alexandria, has been on the Alexandria Fire Department for 16 years. He recently served as first assistant chief.

Karrow sat down with the newspaper last week and explained how someone becomes chief, along with what the job entails, as well as who his first and second assistants are and what their duties include.

Back in October, those interested in the chief's position announced that they wanted to be considered for the job, said Karrow. A screening committee, made up of captains and lieutenants and other fire department members, put together a list of questions for the interested parties.

The same questions are used not only for the chief's position, but also for those who announced their interest in the first and second assistant positions, noted Karrow. The candidates typically draw straws to see who gets to answer the questions first, he added.

During the questioning period, the committee members, along with candidates for first and second assistant, listen to the candidates, and share their input as to whom their choice would be.

At the annual December meeting, the committee makes its recommendation to all members of the department and everyone has input as to who they would like as the chief.

The current chief then makes the announcement as to which person was selected as the new fire chief.

At the December 14 meeting, Karrow was chosen as the new fire chief and now has new responsibilities.

He explained that the chief is considered the department head and is responsible for the budget. He also makes appointments of all captains and lieutenants.

Karrow said that typically, there are 30 firefighters on the Alexandria Fire Department. Within the department, there are three companies, with each company having about 10 members. Each company has its own captain.

In addition, as the new chief, Karrow said he's the incident commander when the fire department is called out. He also coordinates committees, helps make purchasing decisions and assigns duties to the new assistants such as training personnel and equipment issues.

Although all positions on the fire department are on a volunteer basis, Karrow explained that the chief receives an expense check or small stipend for his personal vehicle, cell phone and for watching the budget.

At the December meeting, Bill "Same" Thoennes was named first assistant and will be in charge of equipment and engineering. Chris Janke was named second assistant chief and will be in charge of training and personnel. Mark Bergerson was named secretary.

A chief can serve two-year terms for a maximum of six years, which is the same for the assistants.

When Karrow takes over on January 1, he will be the 24th chief since 1883.


With the recent dumping of snow in the area, the new fire chief has made a request to residents. If there is a fire hydrant in your yard or in your neighborhood, make sure it is free and clear of any snow. "In case of an emergency, make sure your hydrant is dug out so the fire department can access it," said Jeff Karrow, Alexandria's new fire chief.