KMN SITS DOWN WITH STEPHEN RINALDI
Tell us about your family.
I have a wife, Kelly Rinaldi, who is a certified teacher and administrator and would like to work within the community with the Kuna School District. We also have two Labradors and one Border Collie.
Did you want to be a fireman growing up?
My father was a firefighter in Kissimmee, Florida. He was one of the first engineers. I grew up around the firehouse. I have a brother as well as two nephews that are in the fire service in Florida. It runs in our family we have been around it most of our lives. We always rode in the parades on the trucks. Back then my father was a career firefighter and a volunteer fire fighter, he would go work his shift and then come home, if he got a big call he would load us all up and we would take off and go to the fires with him. It was kind of ingrained in me at a young age. I can’t see myself doing anything else.
Who was the acting fire chief before you?
Bruce Allcott was acting Chief for four months. The fire district brought him in to keep things moving forward while they where doing the search for the new fire chief. He is very well known in the area, and was previously the Fire Chief of Caldwell and also with Burley.
Have you ever saved a cat from a tree?
No, that is a common myth about firefighters. I have known some fire fighters that have tried to help a cat out of a tree but it is a very hazardous thing to do because usually the cat is not agreeable with you trying to remove them. They will usually hang out there till they get hungry and come down on their own.
So far, how does Kuna compare to the other cities you have worked in?
I grew up in a small town; the quality of life is what I really like here. I also see a great deal of potential in Kuna.
Have you ever been burned in the line of work?
No, I have not had a job related burn that was anything substantial that needed to have medical attention.
What can Kuna expect differently with you as Fire Chief?
It’s not so much differently and its not that I am looking to change a bunch of things. What I am looking at doing is working to see where we can expand services; obviously we have a budget we have to live within.
There are opportunities for partnering with other organizations or agencies like the city of Kuna or surrounding departments. I’m looking to try to gain some efficiency that could possibly free up some funding that we can put into other areas and expand things as far as services. I am looking to make sure that within the district and even the neighboring communities that we provide mutual aid to and who also provide mutual aid to us, that essentially the services we are offering and providing are the highest quality and that we are concentrating on customer service and meeting the needs of everyone that we serve.
A large portion of that is asking; where can we improve upon things for greater efficiency and effectiveness? That’s going to come from looking at what our current operations are along with studying everything from our equipment to training our personnel and taking all of that into account.
I am starting an approach using a 180-day strategic plan doing a SWOT analysis. Input from both our internal members in the department and external stakeholders in the community will be involved in the analysis. The analysis is conducting a survey to gather the information and looks at our Strengths Weaknesses Opportunities and Threats. We are in the process of getting that going right now.
Starting off with the internal SWOT analysis will give us a lot of information that will help plan for the future of the district and also the information that we gain from the public will give us a better understanding of what their expectations are for us as far as the services they expect. And also what they perceive the level of service we are providing right now; are we doing a good job? Is there something in their view that we can do better? A lot of times by doing that and reaching out to them and asking for input we can get really good ideas of accomplishing things that may have been overlooked previously but we are always open to other suggestions and seeing how we can improve on things.
Its not going to happen overnight, it’s a methodical process and what it does is allow us to make those decisions that are going to be crucial to our operations essentially by making an informed decision. By doing that you are not looking at something and making a snap judgment you are gathering all the information necessary to make a good judgment that is not going to just cover you for today but for 5 to 10 years from now.
Have you won any awards for actions in the line of Duty?
That’s a good question. I am trying to think back. I am sure I have a few certificates but that really doesn’t matter to me. The greatest rewards I get are from knowing we have helped the people or families that we protect, providing the highest level of service and having an effect on someone’s life. Those are the types of things that mean more to me.
I once helped a family through a traumatic situation following a residential structure fire. For some after that I received a card from that family each Christmas. Experiencing the gratitude for the job that you did, that reward is enough for me.
What is the biggest fire you ever fought?
You remember little things. I can remember fighting a fire in Citrus County at a restaurant as a hurricane was coming ashore. We were getting some extreme winds coming at us and it was prior to where you reach the point that you pull people off the street so they can hunker down for their own safety while the storm passes over.
There have been some pretty unique things that I have experienced. After awhile it’s not the size of the fire, it’s the uniqueness of them and how they were different, something unusual that you might not have experienced or seen during previous fires. That kind of thing sticks in my mind more so than the big fires.
Do you have any plans for the south side of tracks with not having an overpass?
I looked at that prior to getting the interview. I researched the area and issues like that and then once I was offered the position and preparing to come out, I started looking at it further. I know there has been some discussion about trying to work with the highway district to put in an overpass at strategic positions so it can provide us some access to the south part of town and that whole southern area that would allow us to not be block by a train coming through. That is one of the main issues that they have been dealing with. I am definitely aware of it and its one of the things that I will be looking at. I am sure that the district board and the city is going to be looking at that and working with Ada County Highway District. I am hopeful that it’s an issue that will be addressed. It’s going to rely on available funding. It is only matter of how long before everyone comes together and decides to get going and correct it.
Have there been any incidents involving cows yet?
I have wrangled a few cows in my day, I am very experienced in which end is the business end. Yes I have had experiences working with cattle and I would anticipate that I will probably have a few more in my time here.
If I were fire chief and you were the interviewer what question would have asked me?
What I would expect from the media as far as what my expectations are in building a relationship with the media? I am big on building partnerships around the community and with other organizations, with community groups, schools and obviously with the media. You are a conduit where we can provide a message to the public, whether its fire prevention or any type of activity that we are involved with that has a safety message behind it. Or, just putting general information out there when the season starts to roll around and making sure the public is aware of what we will be doing and the types of measures we will take to protect them. Those are the things we need to have good communication because if we keep you informed therefore you keep the public informed.
At the same time there will be times where you may hear from the public on various issues that you can help inform us if there are things that we need to consider out there that maybe a concern. It’s kind of a give-and-take relationship. There are going to be things where we will need assistance on getting the word out. I would much rather promote the positive things that we can do within the community and will be doing in the community and how it will benefit them.
Obviously there are negative things that we have to look at with regards to actions that people take that are unsafe and we are trying to work to educate them on safer methods that they can utilize in various areas that is going to help lessen their need on us. It’s not that we are not willing to help them but if we can keep them from putting themselves in that situation in the first place we are actually doing our job better than we would if we had to respond to it, that’s the part that’s really critical.
We are here to respond to emergencies. Usually when we are called, the individual that calls us is having a bad day so when we show up it’s a situation where we are experiencing them in a time when they are extremely stressed about the situation they are dealing with. So it’s imperative for us to handle the situations and make things as better for them as we possibly can and improve their situation as best that we can. We have to use all of our training and experience to achieve that. We want to allow those times when we are out there doing fire prevention or public education events in the community to also showcase our capabilities to respond to emergencies which combined is our total effort to improve the quality of life here.
The safer we make it for everyone in the community then the more enjoyable it is to live here and the less they have to worry about what’s going to happen if they have a serious situation occur. They know they are going to have someone come help them and by us providing that service proficiently then it lessens their degree of concern, because they will have comfort in knowing we are here and we
Stephen Rinaldi has served as a Deputy Fire Chief in Citrus County, Florida, and as an Assistant Fire Chief (Fire Marshal and Training Officer) in Escambia County, Florida. He has been in the fire and life safety field since 1992. He looks forward to another 15 or 20 years right here in Kuna.