Metro-East News

Collinsville fire chief search continues as assistant chief retires

The Collinsville Fire Department is losing its leader for the second time in a year, while the search goes on for a new chief.

Assistant Fire Chief Dale Kyrouac is retiring effective Friday after 24 years with the Collinsville Fire Department. In addition to his many other positions within the department, Kyrouac has been the interim chief since December, when former chief Mark Emert resigned to take a job in Montana.

“We’re really sad that he’s leaving,” said Stacey O’Brien, human resources manager for the city of Collinsville.

In the meantime, the search for a new fire chief has been ongoing. O’Brien said the city has been working with the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association as consultants to work with them on recruitment and assessment of fire chief candidates.

“We started a search early in the spring, but we didn’t get a strong pool of candidates,” O’Brien said. “The association suggested we wait until early fall to do more recruitment.”

It seems to have worked: the fall pool included 24 candidates, which has now been narrowed down to six finalists. O’Brien said those six will come in next week for an all-day assessment by IFCA.

The assessors look for a variety of skill sets in a fire chief, according to IFCA executive director Tim Sashko. They’re looking at experience with training programs, interactive capabilities, finances and budget management, experience in collective bargaining, educational levels, participation with trade organizations and more. Many fire chief candidates have masters-level degrees and certifications in subjects ranging from fire safety to homeland security to civic administration, Sashko said.

“We try to peel the onion as best we can, looking for the attributes you want in a strong leader,” Sashko said.

IFCA does this kind of assessment and consulting for many municipalities and fire districts, due to the unique qualifications needed for emergency management services, Sashko said. “It’s very common throughout the industry when looking at law enforcement and fire chiefs,” he said.

Sashko said IFCA officials will meet with Collinsville city leaders on Wednesday next week, put the candidates through the assessment process on Thursday, and hopefully will have a scoring matrix for Collinsville leaders by the end of the week. “From there, with our guidance, they’ll decide who they want to bring in for final candidate interviews,” Sashko said. “I would imagine within a few weeks, they should be able to make an announcement.”

Likewise, the city is still working on who will be running the department with both Emert and Kyrouac gone. “We are in the process of working that out,” O’Brien said. “We have been working with the captains in the fire department and the president of the union, so we’re all collaborating.”

Kyrouac is not the only recent retirement from the department: 35-year veteran Lt. Randy Barnett retired in August.

Meanwhile, Kyrouac’s departure has been commemorated on social media. The Collinsville Emergency Management Agency congratulated him on his retirement on Wednesday. “Thank you for your many years of dedicated service to the Collinsville Fire Department and the citizens of Collinsville,” they wrote.

Elizabeth Donald: 618-239-2507, @BNDedonald