Sculpture Outside Chapel Hill Fire State Rededicated Ahead of 9/11 Anniversary

Bells rang out in memory of those lost on 9/11 at a rededication ceremony in Chapel Hill on Wednesday for the sculpture that sits at the edge of the Chapel Hill Fire Station on Martin Luther King Junior Boulevard.

“As I look at the sculpture, I see heroism, teamwork, connectivity, history, perseverance and community,” said fire chief Matt Sullivan. He spoke at the outdoor ceremony that took place beside the sculpture.

Its name is Promethean Honor Guard. And it was made 15 years ago by sculptor Mike Roig. Roig says he was inspired to create it after 9/11, and he began spending a lot of time with the Chapel Hill Fire Department so that he could be sure to capture the true spirit of a firefighter.

“The thing that’s really apparent about the firehouse culture is that it’s a team of people that work together.”

Promethean Honor Guard was originally installed outside the fire station on Bennett Road, but was moved to its new home so that it could be more easily viewed by the public. Chapel Hill Mayor Pam Hemminger also spoke at the ceremony and says she hopes to see more emphasis placed on art by the town.

“I want to see us do more with art. I think art is an integral part of our community”

Roig says he’s glad his work made a difference, even over a decade later.

“Fifteen years later, I’ve made hundreds of sculptures and made a lot of public sculptures, but this was the first.”

Promethean Honor Guard is now permanently installed outside fire station number one, honoring in particular the men and women of the CHFD.

New Chapel Hill Fire Chief Matt Sullivan Discusses His Plans for the Position

After serving the fire department as the interim fire chief for over a year, Matt Sullivan knows the department is more than just him.

“This is definitely not about Matt Sullivan but this is about a group of tremendously talented people at the Chapel Hill Fire Department who have always served the community with excellence,” Sullivan said.

Removing the word ‘interim’ from his position, Sullivan said the change in title will reflect a change in the department.

“I think a lot of times when folks looked at interim, they thought that interim signified a future change,” Sullivan said. “And what I’d like to convey to our employees is that we’re going to make this change and that change sets us up for the future.”

Sullivan said he’s looking at a future that will adapt to new developments, types of buildings and the increasing density of the population. Sullivan said the solutions to these problems will come with teamwork.

“I’m not sure I’m smart enough to have all those answers, but I do know that I’ve got talented folks in the department and in this community who can help us with those answers.”

Sullivan has worn many hats throughout his career, giving him a unique perspective on how different departments work together.

“I actually started as a police officer, fire fighter, EMT. In 1988 I started as a public safety officer in the public safety system, and then when the police department and the fire department split, I stayed on the police side for about seven years.”

He earned a masters degree in social work, worked at UNC as the coordinator for substance abuse programs and eventually returned to the police force as a police social worker in the police Crisis Unit.

“I spent some time in the police department doing the victim’s work, went to law school as part of a mid life crisis, served as a police attorney, and then the took the emergency management position here at the fire department.”

That mid-life crisis law degree eventually pointed him back to his true calling.

“I don’t regret that step in my life at all. It was definitely a learning experience but I found this sort of role and this sort of work to be much more rewarding.”

Pursing his passion for service, Sullivan said his time leading the fire department will focus on utilizing the strengths of his team.

“I’ve had a lot of employees come up with some really great ideas, so in town we want to be creative and innovative and look to how we can improve our efficiencies in services to the town,” Sullivan said. “So to have the swell of support from employees has been really encouraging to me.”

Sullivan says he wants to reach out to all areas of the community to better solve problems and work through feedback.

“This community is changing shape and as we continue to grow and things change, our services have to change too. So we are in a position to engage not only our employees but other town departments, citizens and all of our stake holders in a conversation about what this looks like.

Sullivan’s duties also include developing collaborative, innovative leadership for the future, retaining the current staff and attracting new talent.

Matt Sullivan Named New Chapel Hill Fire Chief

Matt Sullivan was named Chapel Hill’s new Fire Chief after serving as the interim chief since May of 2015.

Town manager Roger Stancil sent an email to the town council announcing Sullivan’s promotion, saying he has “ably demonstrated his skills and qualifications for this position of leadership.”

“I want to send a strong message that Matt has my full confidence as the leader of our Fire Department,” Stancil wrote. “He meets my leadership interests in a Chief.”

Stancil also wrote that Sullivan has become a key member of the Town’s leadership team, citing his understanding of fire service, experience with Town operations and understanding of their Vision and Values, as important qualities Sullivan will bring to the position.

During his tenure, Chief Sullivan will be expected to complete a departmental strategic planning process for the future, establish an effective organizational structure, as well as establish a facilities improvement plan.

Stancil wrote that other responsibilities will include developing collaborative, innovative leadership for the future, retain the current staff and attract new talent.

“As we move forward with our strategic planning effort for the future and with addressing current operational and staffing decisions, he needs your support. I need for you to see him as your leader without reservation,” Stancil wrote.

Chapel Hill Kids Learn the Science Behind Firefighting

Firefighters are pretty much experts when it comes to teaching fire safety. But math and science might be some of their lesser known skills.

“The general population, doesn’t think of firefights as being mathematicians or scientist or engineers,” said Stephanie Halpin, the STEM Coordinator for Granville County Schools.

Chapel Hill firefighters explain the gear they use. Photo via Erin Wygant.

Chapel Hill firefighters explain the gear they use. Photo via Erin Wygant.

She coordinated with the Chapel Hill Fire Department and the Chapel Hill Public Library to host “Sci Why,” an interactive event to teach kids about the science, technology and math behind firefighting.

“Science, technology, engineering and math is what STEM stands for and there’s so much of that in firefighting but most people don’t make that connection,” Halpin said.

A group of twenty firefighters hosted the three-hour event where they taught kids about the equipment they carry and different ways to put out fires. The four hands-on stations emphasized the science and math behind their job, discussing equations, molecular structures and new technology that are all part of firefighting.

“We had two learning goals,” Halpin said. “One was fire safety, obviously. The other one was to help students make connections to science and math in their daily lives.”

Yan Kong brought her daughter to the event because she said she wanted to encourage an interest in science and math.

“Sometimes they think boys like cars and girls like dolls but I don’t think so,” Kong said. “I think everyone should be able to learn with anything for their future life.”

Dawn Towery brought her two sons to the event for a similar reason.

“We love the library, we love firefighters and we like science and math and technology, so we thought it’d be a great afternoon activity,” Towery said.

Her 10-year-old son Ian said he was curious about the science behind fires.

“I’m hoping to learn more about smoke because I know about particles and atoms but I don’t know much about smoke. So I want to know more.”

But Ian had other motives for learning about fire safety, too.

“In video games I like to set things on fire and then I have to put it out.”
“So maybe this firefighting class will help you with your video games?”
“Yes, by helping me find the source of the fire.”

The event included some experiments with household items.

Firefighters taught kids about density and weight using oil and water. Photo via Erin Wygant.

Firefighters taught kids about density and mass using oil and water. Photo via Erin Wygant.

“What we have here is regular water and some regular cooking oil that your parents might use,” explained a group of firefighters. “And what we’re trying to figure out, is if we pour this blue water onto the cooking oil, will it go to the bottom or stay on top of the oil?”

The kids watched the water filter down to the bottom of the cup, leading to a discussion about mass and density.

Gill Corbett was the first to try on a fireman's coat. Photo via Erin Wygant.

Gill Corbett was the first to try on a fireman’s coat. Photo via Erin Wygant.

At a different station, children learned about the clothes fire fighters wear, and the science behind their protective qualities. Eleven-year-old Gill Corbett put on one of the firemen’s coats, which he said was the highlight of his day.

“My favorite part was when I tried on the coat. It was really heavy but still pretty cozy.”

His reaction was exactly what Halpin was looking for.

“I hope it gives them some excitement about learning,” Halpin said. “And I hope they can see some leadership in the community with some of the positive role models that are here.”

Halpin said she hopes to partner with the fire department again, much to Gill’s delight. When asked if he’d come back, he responded with a hearty…

“Definitely! Oh definitely.”

Maintenance Being Performed on Chapel Hill Fire Hydrants

You will very likely see fire hydrants spraying out water in Chapel Hill throughout the month of May. But don’t worry; it’s all normal maintenance.

A release from the fire department said all fire hydrants will be tested during this maintenance period to ensure they are operable and producing the required amount of what for when they are needed.

If you observe a hydrant that is out of service or experiencing problems, you are asked to contact Orange Water and Sewer Authority at (919) 537-4343.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding fire crews in your area, you can call the department at (919) 969-2010 to speak with the on-duty Battalion Chief.

Chapel Hill Receives Offer To Purchase Fire Station Property

The Town of Chapel Hill has received a 1.4 million dollar offer from the State Employee’s Credit Union to buy the property on Weaver Dairy Road that currently houses Fire Station No. 4.

Town manager Roger Stancil said the station is one of three the town needs to consider replacing.

“This is the opportunity to replace an aging facility,” he said. “It would require us to relocate Fire Staton No. 4.”

The council did not authorize Stancil to move forward with the sale, but did authorize him to come up with a recommendation about how to handle a possible sale and the options for relocating the station.

“If people haven’t been in the fire station, don’t understand the condition we ask our public safety people to live in and work in,” councilman George Cianciolo said. “I think it’ll be an eye-opener.”

But the $1.4 million, which is the town’s estimated value of the property, will not be nearly enough to cover the cost of a new fire facility.

According to Stancil, the cost to relocate the station would be around $2.9 million, excluding the cost of any land leased or purchased.

Fire Station No. 4 is also home to training facilities, which is estimated to cost $7 million to relocate.

“You could decide once we come back that you want to rebuild a fire station on that site,” Stancil said. “What motivates us is that we need to replace this fire station. Is there a way to do that and save the taxpayers money?”

The town will continue to listen to offers for the property, as well as evaluate potential new locations for the station.

Franklin St Lanes Reopened

Multiple lanes were closed on Franklin St and Church St.  The two east-bound lanes on W Franklin St were blocked.  East-bound motorists were able to get by the area in the center-turn lane.

Emergency crews were on the scene.  The Chapel Hill Fire Department had units dispatched and asked people to use caution in the area.

Earlier this week, fire crews contained a gas leak in the same area, which is near the Carolina Square construction site.

Chapel Hill Looks To Sell Fire Station Property

The Chapel Hill Town Council unanimously agreed to allow the town to sell the property that currently houses Fire Station 2 on South Hamilton Road.

East-West Partners has proposed to buy the property for $1.7 million and lease it back to the town.

That money would be used to build a new station on the property and East-West Partners would also build a two-story office building and a parking deck.

“The proposed agreement would allow the town to acquire a brand new fire station that would meet our needs into the future for $750,000,” town manager Roger Stancil said. “It’s a 500-year lease and the property would go on the tax books.”

The property is currently untaxed and Stancil estimated this would add $42,000 annually to the budget.

Without this deal, renovation of the new fire station is estimated to be nearly $3 million.

Interim Fire Chief Matthew Sullivan said the new station will be able to house two trucks and the EMS unit that Orange County EMS  has said it is interested in co-locating at the station.

“Given the condition of our Station 3 property and the crowding issues there, as well as the strategic location of Station 2, it’s our intention to move the ladder truck to the new fire station immediately when it opens,” he said.

The town will lease the property for the next 500 years and will pay $1 in rent per year.

“One of our citizens said ‘why are we not leasing the land, why are we selling the land,'” said councilwoman Donna Bell. “We’re getting a new station and that land underneath it, short of, you know, martians, is kind of ours.”

Mayor Pam Hemminger was also in favor of the sale.

“I’m very excited about this,” she said. “I’m not normally excited about selling town property or trading town property but we do get basically a $3 million station for $750,000.”

When renovation begins, UNC has agreed to house the crew currently at Station 2 at an old fraternity house near Finley Golf Course.

Stancil said the town also has two other fire stations that need renovation and already have proposals to buy those lots, but wanted to start with Station 2 before moving forward on to the others.

Sullivan To Lead CHFD Through Strategic Planning Process

Matt Sullivan will stay on as Chapel Hill’s interim fire chief for at least the next year and a half.

In a memo to council members, Town Manager Roger Stancil wrote that the fire department needs to take time to plan for the future before hiring a new leader.

Sullivan, who has served as interim chief since Dan Jones stepped down in May, will continue in his role for 18 to 24 months while revising the department’s strategic plan.

Stancil says the future of the department will likely involve greater collaboration with other municipalities and community partners.

Longtime Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones To Retire In May

After decades of public service, longtime Chapel Hill Fire Chief Dan Jones will be stepping down this spring.

“After 41 years in the fire service (and) 25 years in Chapel Hill, my wife and I decided that it’s time to end my career in the uniformed fire service,” he says. “I let the town manager know (Wednesday) that I intend to retire in May.”

He’s spent his entire life in public service, leading the Chapel Hill Fire Department through a long period of transition. When he took office in 1990, he says the CHFD didn’t provide much more than fire service – but now it also provides emergency medical service, rescue services, and more.

“We’ve come a long way,” he says. “The one thing that I have the most mixed emotions about is the people that I work here with – (they’re) really, really good folks, very dedicated and very committed to the fire service and the citizens they protect. I’ll miss the daily interaction with those folks.”

Along the way, Chief Jones and his team faced a number of serious challenges – perhaps most notably a tragic fire in 1996 at the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity house, which killed five students but also led to significant policy changes for new developments that have made our community (and others) much safer.

“That was a horrible tragedy,” Jones says, “but a lot of good came out of it – sprinkler systems in student housing, not only here in Chapel Hill but (also) in other parts of the country – and I felt good about the fact that we were able to turn that tragedy into a lot of positive things.”

Chapel Hill Mayor Mark Kleinschmidt says Chief Jones will leave a tremendous legacy – not just with the fire department, but with Chapel Hill town government in general.

“He’s the longest serving fire chief this city’s ever had, (and) he’s seen us through some really tough, challenging times,” Kleinschmidt says. “His fingerprints are over a lot of things – not just the fire department, but (also) the management style of the rest of our organization…

“He got us through a recession – when other cities were losing or laying off firefighters, he was able to manage one of our town’s largest departments through that difficult time, doing things that no other fire chief in this whole state has ever done. He’s going to be hard to replace.”

Kleinschmidt says Chief Jones will be missed – but he also says the chief’s influence will be felt for years to come.

“He really has trained up a generation of extraordinary servants that have come through our fire department…and who will owe their careers to him,” Kleinschmidt says. “And he’s taught me a lot as well.”

Chief Jones says he won’t be leaving town anytime soon: his family is all here and Chapel Hill is home. But he says there’s one local community staple that he will miss.

“You know, one of the things I’m going to miss the most when I retire is not (being able to) listen to Ron Stutts every morning driving in to work,” he says.

Chief Dan Jones is expected to step down on May 1.