By Robert Leininger:
If you’re old enough to remember when the Dead Sea was only sick, you’ll also remember when doctors came to their patients when they needed help – a now forgotten practice called House Calls.
Back then, being a firefighter meant just that – you fought fires. When the bell rang, these brave men slid down the fire pole, threw on their gear, and screamed to the scene with sirens and lights blaring, their trusty Dalmatian by their side. Times have changed. Sure, today’s firefighters are still trained to put out fires, but their main role is medical. And they are the ones who make the house calls now. “Seventy-five percent of our calls are EMS (Emergency Medical Services) related,” explained Randall Baldwin, Cripple Creek’s Fire Chief. “All our firefighters are EMS providers.”
Baldwin should know. He’s been in this game since his early twenties.
The tall, strapping chief was drawn to public service early in life – and it obviously was a good career choice, since he has continuously climbed the firefighting ladder. “When I was 12 years old, we had a house fire. I awoke to a smoke filled room. I couldn’t see. It was scary,” he explained. Baldwin and his family escaped without injury, but the firefighting bug had bitten him. It piqued his interest in the field, and eventually he was volunteering for a department within his community.
By his early 20s, Baldwin was a professional – working full time in his trade, back in his home state of Virginia. From there, he earned the Assistant Fire Chief Job in Jerome, Idaho, and eventually was named chief.
In August of 2008, Cripple Creek came a calling. And Baldwin packed up and came to the Colorado high country to run the city’s department. What he found was a challenge. “When I got here, the turnover in the department was very high – the firefighters were often working a 72 hour shift, just because there was nobody to relieve them.”
Today, that problem has been solved, and Baldwin has another achievement he can hang his fireman’s helmet on.
Achievements are no stranger to Baldwin. His accolades are top notch, and you can tell just by walking in the Cripple Creek Fire Department that this is a professionally run operation.
But as in any field, accolades that come from your peers are the ones most treasured. And now Baldwin has been chosen to join an elite group – he has been honored with the professional designation of CFO (Chief Fire Officer). Baldwin is one of only 956 CFO’s worldwide.
He was chosen for this title by members of the Center for Public Safety Excellence, a national group based in Virginia, that is comprised of fire and emergency service professionals, members of academia and municipal agency heads – Baldwin’s peers. Needless to say, the chief felt very honored when he heard the news. And on the home front, Baldwin recently acquired a new “toy” that he is also very proud of – a 1,000 gallon capacity fire engine that the Cripple Creek department was in desperate need of. “This will double the amount of water we can take to the scene of a fire,” he explained. And no more sliding backwards down icy driveways in winter: This nearly $400,000 dollar machine has four-wheel drive, a first for the Cripple Creek department’s pumper inventory.
But don’t expect Baldwin to sit back and rest on his laurels – it’s simply not in his genetic makeup. He’s always looking to the future, and, if the opportunity would present itself down the road, you might just see the chief trade in his firefighter’s helmet to wear the hat of a city manager. “I want to remain in public service. My master’s degree is in public administration and it’s a good fit for me,” he said. And anybody who has met him would be inclined to agree.