Belleville fire chief to step down after 28 years

News-DemocratDecember 11, 2013 

— Belleville Fire Chief Scott Lanxon will retire next year after 28 years of service to the city.

Lanxon announced Wednesday that his retirement will be effective Feb. 3.

Lanxon, 53, has served as fire chief for more than six years. He replaced former Fire Chief David Martinson, who also retired.

"I like where we are at: We are steadily moving forward," Lanxon said, "but it's time for another guy to lead things forward with fresh ideas."

Under Lanxon's leadership, the Fire Department created battalion chief positions, added four firefighters, switched to better technology, expanded training opportunities and bought about four trucks and two rescue boats, among other improvements.

And, Lanxon said the department's Insurance Services Office rating became a three on a scale of one to 10, with one being the best. The ratings -- based on an agency's size, response time, available equipment and other factors -- affect home insurance costs.

Another change is that firefighters nowadays respond to more car crashes, to help with entrapment, while the number of structure fires have gone down, Lanxon added.

Still, the largest, most notable fire during Lanxon's time as chief is a 2010 structure fire downtown at Jackson and Main streets.

The city's firefighters have pre-fire plans to train for situations in "high-dollar lost areas," and with help from area agencies, firefighters got a stop though the firewall was breached, Lanxon said. City officials later decided to demolish the buildings at 201 and 207 E. Main St. for safety reasons.

"The department saved a whole city block that night," Lanxon said.

After the downtown fire, Martinson, the former fire chief, told Lanxon: "You had my nightmare fire."

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said Lanxon's resignation is bittersweet: Lanxon is talented and also passionate about the city.

"When you see Scott on a fire scene, you can tell it's not only what he does well, it's what he does best," Eckert said.

Lanxon said he thanks the mayor for listening to every concern he ever had and giving him the chance to serve as chief. Lanxon said he will miss firefighting but that he knows it is the right time to retire.

"Firefighters love fighting fires," Lanxon said. "The last day you step off a ladder and move to an office job is the hardest day."

Lanxon said he looks forward to spending his first year after retirement doing volunteer work, including more hours with the Belleville Khoury League and perhaps coaching a team that includes his daughter, a Special Olympics athlete.

Danielle Lanxon is 15 and his son, Derek Lanxon, is 22. Lanxon said his wife, Alyce Lanxon, has a "honey-do list" ready for him.

Eckert plans to recommend an interim chief by Christmas. The appointment needs City Council approval.

Though fire departments typically promote from within the ranks, Eckert said he also is open to interviewing candidates from outside the agency. The person who is the right fit will have a combination of education, experience and enthusiasm, Eckert said.

The Belleville Fire Department has 63 firefighters and two civilian employees. Tom Pour is the deputy fire chief and J.P. Penet is the assistant fire chief.

Contact reporter Jacqueline Lee at jlee@bnd.com or 618-239-2655. Follow her on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BNDJLee.

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