A new era Williams Fire: Chase Pearson selected as Williams first paid fire chief
WILLIAMS, Ariz. - Few in Williams will be surprised to hear that Chase Pearson has been selected to fill the new paid fire chief position at Williams Fire Department.
Williams City Council offered the position to Pearson at the Jan. 12 council meeting, and he officially stepped into the role Jan. 30.
The Williams native is well known throughout the community and has held several volunteer positions with Williams Fire. In addition, Pearson has held several full-time positions with other departments, most recently with Verde Valley Fire. His impressive resume includes cadet firefighter, probationary firefighter, engineer, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief and fire chief.
Pearson first got a taste for the trade when he joined the WFD cadet program in high school in 1999.
“Once I got on the department I knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Pearson said. “From then on I just kept on training and learning more about it. I wanted to be a full-time firefighter somewhere.”
Pearson completed his certifications through WFD and in 2005 he accepted a full-time firefighter position at Fort Mohave Fire District. He spent over 13 years at Fort Mohave before he accepted another position at Verde Valley Fire District in 2019.
After volunteering for several years for Williams Fire Department, Pearson served as the volunteer fire chief from 2013 to 2019. He stepped into the role again in May 2022.
“I like making a difference if we can," Pearson said. "It’s a unique experience to show up and when someone is having probably the worst day of their life, whether it’s a medical emergency or a fire, to use those skills that we’ve learned with hundreds if not thousands of hours of training to make a difference to do something positive so it’s very rewarding to be able to use those skills to hopefully make a positive difference for somebody.”
During his years serving as a firefighter, Pearson obtained his bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety with a minor in fire safety from Columbia Southern University. He obtained his master’s degree in fire rescue executive leadership from Waldorf University.
Pearson regularly attends leadership trainings and conferences as well.
The city of Williams pursued a paid fire chief position after completing a study last year.
In February 2022, the city contracted with Public Safety Research Group (PSRG) to analyze the current all-volunteer fire department and to develop a plan to move toward a combination fire department consisting of both paid and volunteer members.
“We reached out to them when we noticed a drop in the number of calls that we were able to answer and that we were having fewer volunteers answer those calls,” Pearson said.
The study was completed in August and determined that should the city of Williams decide to transition to a combination fire department, it would result in improved emergency response times and enhanced community safety. Hiring a fire chief was the first step of carrying out this city objective.
The city began accepting applications for the position from in-house firefighters late last year. With his extensive list of experience and community knowledge, Pearson felt he was qualified for the job.
“I’ve seen over the last 20 years how this department has evolved,” Pearson said. “I’ve been a part of this organization for so long and feel that I could help integrate the volunteers with other full time staff and meet the challenges of Williams.”
Select candidates participated in oral interviews with city council members. The council was pleased with Pearson’s interview and experience.
“He’s been a volunteer himself, he is a paid firefighter in his regular job and has been for a number of years,” Mayor Don Dent said. “He has the respect of the volunteers here, he has the respect of the people where he’s worked in the other departments. I think we’re very blessed to have him want to be our first chief and I think he’ll do a fabulous job.”
Dent wasn’t part of the team who interviewed Pearson, but said he heard he did very well on his interviews.
“It was an open testing process and I came out number one,” Pearson said. “I think having the knowledge of the organization, the town and the citizens’ needs is what really put me above the rest.”
From a high school fire cadet to full-time chief, Pearson never dreamed he’d climb this far up the “fire ladder.”
“I was excited and overwhelmed, humbled by the opportunity really,” Pearson said. “I think it’s something that I didn’t think of in the beginning, certainly not when I started. I don’t know what point I realized this might be something that I’d do.”
With a full-time fire chief, Williams will be able to begin addressing the issues found in the PSRG study. Some of the biggest challenges facing the department include community growth, community aging, extended response times, reduced staffing and missed calls. The paid position will also guarantee more time for administrative work.
As Pearson steps into the new role, he will continue to face the biggest issues facing the department. One of which being WFD’s response to calls.
“Everyone else has a full time job. So they can’t always leave that job, or they’re not always in town working in Williams where they can respond to an emergency,” Pearson said. “If we can add some more diversity to who our volunteers are and what type of occupation that they have, then that would help our times for when we need those folks for when we lack the most. That’s not to say that other times of the day when we do have more volunteers we don’t struggle, because we still have fewer volunteers showing up on nights and weekends just because of different schedules and where people live and where they work.”
Another pressing issue is effective EMS response.
“That is something that we’re working on. We’re looking at ways in how we can improve EMS service within the city,” Pearson said. “We’ve been building up the type of equipment that we have, we still struggle with training the volunteers and not knowing when they’re going to be available, so we don’t have the ability to transport a patient to the hospital.”
Pearson’s badge pinning will take place during the Feb. 9 city council meeting. Pearson looks forward to his fire chief from Verde Valley being in attendance.
“The Williams fire department has been around for so long, that’s why I say I’m humbled to be in this position, because of all of the people that have built this organization over the years. It’s a pretty awesome experience to be a part of this and taking the department to the next stages is pretty exciting,” Pearson said. “It’s been an awesome experience over the last 20 years to be a part of this organization... I hope to keep doing it more for quite a while.”
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