Q&A: Fire chief brings gift of conversation and training to St. Cloud

ST. CLOUD – Matt Love has spent more than half his life fighting fires – with departments in the wilderness of Colorado to the sandy shores of the Gulf of Mexico.

After serving as fire chief in Fort Myers Beach, Fla., for nearly six years, Love’s latest venture has taken him deep into the country: Love was named chief of the St. Cloud Fire Department in December. .

The Colorado Springs, Colorado native has already established himself in the national speaking circuits, as he has given leadership presentations for the International Association of Fire Chiefs and the US Air Force Academy.

The 41-year-old now hopes to focus on leadership in his new role advocating for public safety and first responders.

In a written response to the Star Tribune, Love spoke about future plans for St. Cloud’s 72-member department and how Minnesota’s city-run fire department differs from the organizational structure of his previous jobs. His answers have been edited for clarity and length.

Q: First of all, why Saint-Cloud? Seems like a big change from Florida.

A: Being from Colorado, my family’s taste for seasons has never gone away and there’s something that isn’t quite the same in Florida. My wife and I knew that getting closer to family in the Midwest would be a priority. As we considered where we wanted to raise our boys, the reputation of the St. Cloud Fire Department resurfaced and it became clear that the community of St. Cloud, the city management and the public security team were the right person.

Q: How is the St. Cloud Fire Department different from others you have led?

A: My two previous appointments as chief were overseeing a fire district, which is an independent government entity that often includes many cities and does not fall under a single city’s governance structure. This means that districts have their own finance, human resources and facilities departments, with chiefs serving as chief executives with a board of elected commissioners. Being within the municipal structure of St. Cloud allows the department to pool resources and work across departments to serve the community – a key aspect that draws me to city government service.

Q: St. Cloud firefighters are responsible for more than just putting out fires. They respond to medical calls and provide mutual aid to surrounding towns with volunteer firefighters. What do you want people to know about the services offered by the ministry?

A: The responsibilities of today’s firefighter have evolved tremendously over the years. Nearly 80% of our responses are emergency medical calls. The department also serves as the region’s hazardous materials team and provides technical rescue services such as rope rescue, water and ice rescue, vehicle extrication, and aircraft rescue. We also have a prevention team that reviews building plans for the fire code. These services require a large amount of initial and ongoing training, which our firefighters complete in between responding to thousands of service calls.

Q: City leaders have been talking for years about building a new fire department on the south side of town. What are the current plans and factors considered when building a new station?

A: External experts helped review service data and forecast future growth and response needs. We also consider response capability in terms of drive time and response time for more complex incidents such as a building fire requiring multiple engines or ladder trucks, which may be housed at different stations across the city. The project schedule will be based on our needs assessment, as well as the ability to fund the building, fire equipment and staff to work around the clock.

Q: St. Cloud Police Chief Blair Anderson is known for sharing his experiences advocating for the department and sharing insights on state-level public safety issues. Do you plan to use your role to get involved in these discussions?

A: For years I have had the opportunity to speak locally and nationally. Most of my talks have focused on firefighter safety, training program management and leadership. One of the most rewarding experiences was speaking at the United States Air Force Academy with their character and leadership programs. As I learn more about Minnesota, I believe it is important for a fire chief to speak about our city and the successes and challenges of our service. This is how we all become better.

About Dianne Stinson

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