Williams to retire as Spokane Fire Chief

Michele Anderson, Public Safety Communications Manager, 509.742.0063

Monday, November 7, 2016 at 9 a.m.

Bobby Williams, the longest serving Fire Chief in Spokane’s history, announced today that he will retire next year after more than 28 years with the department. Williams plans to retire on January 22nd.

“Chief Williams has spent the better part of his professional career making sure that the Spokane Fire Department answered the call when members of our community needed it most,” Spokane Mayor David Condon said. “He has advanced our ability to meet the unique needs of the people who require assistance, introduced greater efficiencies into the system, and improved the safety of our firefighters.”

Assistant Chief Brian Schaeffer, who has been with the department for 10 years, will assume the role of interim chief while a national search is conducted.

“I’m honored to have served alongside the incredible men and women who are always there when someone calls for help,” Chief Williams said. “I am proud of the many accomplishments that have been achieved by our department in advancing outstanding service to Spokane and am so appreciative of the wonderful support we have received from the community during my watch. The fire department is in very good hands.”

Chief Williams has been involved with numerous high-impact community incidents during his time as chief, including Ice Storm, Fire Storm and Windstorm. He has been an integral part of the significant advancements in the regionalized approach by Spokane fire service agencies over the last two and a half decades. He served on the 2013 Fire Service Task Team that recommended more than two dozen improvements to fire and emergency medical service and has guided the implementation of most recommendations.

During Chief Williams’ career, calls for service have more than doubled, with this year’s incident totals expected to eclipse 40,000 calls. About 87 percent of responses are requests for medical assistance, with non-life-threatening calls being the fastest growing segment. The Alternative Response Unit pilot program that dispatches sport utility vehicles to non-life-threatening calls, while leaving resources available for emergencies, was initiated during Chief Williams’ tenure, and because of its positive results, it has drawn attention from emergency services agencies across the country.

Chief Williams helped educate the community on numerous successful ballot measures during his time as fire chief. He steered the modernization of the City’s fire department and fire facilities, with the support of funding from citizen approved fire bond Issues. He coordinated the improvement and innovation of the department’s EMS system, with the support of five successful renewals of the City’s EMS levy. He played a key role in the passage of the 0.1 percent sales tax that funded the recent completion of the new Public Safety Communications system that serves all of Spokane County’s public safety agencies.

In laying the foundation for the future and with support of the mayor and City Council, Williams and his team have established a capital replacement plan to update aging fire apparatus and equipment that is affordable to citizens. They sought personnel and a facility to open a temporary fire station in southwest Spokane, adding new 24-hour coverage in that area, and have purchased land for a new permanent fire station that will be in service before 2020. Just recently, the City received a federal grant that will provide for the hiring of 48 additional firefighters to restore department staffing to 2004 levels.

In December, Chief Williams will celebrate 50 years of commitment to the fire service and the communities that he has served. In addition to his role as fire chief, Williams has served as President of the Western Fire Chiefs Association, Chairman of the Board of the International Fire Code Institute, a member of the State Building Code Council and in leadership positions on numerous local boards.

“Anyone who has interacted with Chief Williams during his time with the Spokane Fire Department knows him as a kind, humble and dedicated public servant,” Condon said. “We will miss Chief Williams’ leadership and positive influence on the department and the Spokane Community.”