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Nine apply for fire chief job

By LAUREN LANGLOIS staffwriter@hammondstar.com

Nine applicants who applied to be Hammond's fire chief were reviewed and approved by the municipal fire and police civil service board Thursday.

The applicants are: Kace Nielson of Covington, assistant chief of fire prevention at the City of Hammond Fire Department, Fire Prevention; Daniel Folks of Amite, fire captain at Hammond's city fire department; Michael Kimble of Slaughter, fire investigator at Baton Rouge Fire Department; Roderick Ruffin of Gautier, Miss., captain at Hammond's city fire department; John Hellmers of Kenner, fire chief of Kenner Fire Department; Edward Hernandez of Ponchatoula, lieutenant at Shell Oil Fire Services; David Hughes of Zachary, firefighter/operator at St. George Fire Protection District; Alex Gerarve of Tickfaw, chief of training/safety/special operations at Hammond's city fire department; and Anthony Maurer of Loranger, captain at Hammond's city fire department.

Members voted unanimously to approve eight of the nine applications after reading over them. They then voted to approve the application from Maurer, doing so separately so that Board Member Anthony Maurer could abstain.

The fire chief position became vacant with John Thomas' retirement at the end of August. The process to fill the position has taken longer than expected because the civil service class description did not include the city charter's requirements for fire chief, said city Public Information Officer Lisa Lambert.

The charter was amended by a vote of the people in 2012 to add the requirements, including educational requirements. However, the class description was not updated to reflect the changes. Getting the class description updated under civil service procedures was complex and long, but has been done, Lambert said.

The mayor appoints the fire chief and the appointment is subject to confirmation by the council, reflecting state law.

Despite not having a fire chief, Lambert said the department has run smoothly. She said the department is holding a rookie school and is working to renew the city's property insurance application.

The nine applicants will next take the fire chief exam that is scheduled for April 18 and is administered by the Office of State Examiner.

After the test scores come in, a panel will interview them. On the panel will be Mayor Pete Panepinto, City Administrator Lacy Landrum, Human Resource Director Loretta Severan and past fire chiefs John Thomas and Paul Collura, who is the chief of Hammond Rural Fire Department.