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Randy Black chosen to lead Durango Fire Protection District

Black, the current deputy chief, plans to boost community engagement as the next chief
Randy Black, left, has been named fire chief for the Durango Fire Protection District. He is expected to move into the role early next year. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The Durango Fire Protection District has chosen one of its own to lead the organization beginning early next year.

Deputy Chief Randy Black was selected as part of a national search that included 20 applications for fire chief, the department announced Friday.

Black said he was notified Thursday night by the DFPD board of directors.

“I was actually in shock,” he said. “I kind of sat there for a little bit and my wife came up and gave me a big hug. She was like, ‘See, I told you.’ I mean, we really had no idea.”

Black will take the position being vacated by Hal Doughty, who plans to retire at the end of the year.

“Big shoes to fill,” Black said. “There's been some amazing chiefs before me.”

Randy Black of the Durango Fire Protection District slides down the fire pole installed at Station No. 3 in north Durango. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

The DFPD provides structure and wildland fire protection, as well as EMS services, to an area that’s 325 square miles in size and has a population of about 53,000 people. The district stretches from the Colorado-New Mexico line north along the U.S. Highway 550 corridor to the San Juan County line.

A contract has not been finalized, but the fire chief job description said the position pays $160,000 to $200,000.

Black has been with the Durango Fire Protection District for 33 years. He got his start in fire services as a volunteer, went to paramedic school, has flown with an air care service, served as operations deputy chief for seven years and most recently has been serving as deputy chief of support services.

He was born and raised in Colorado, is a Fort Lewis College graduate and has two children with his wife, Kathy.

Black said he plans to play a larger role in community engagement, which means having more of a social media presence, sending fire/EMS personnel to community meetings, engaging with his own staff and engaging with policymakers on legislative issues impacting fire services.

“You're going to see a lot more of us working with the community, being part of the community and just out in the community,” Black said.

Fire department funding needs to be addressed in coming years, he said. Voters passed a mill levy increase in 2017, he said, but since then the “math that calculated the net revenue for us has been changed considerably by the state Legislature.”

He said Senate Bill 238, which passed last year, reduced the amount of property tax being collected from residential and commercial property owners, which impacts local services. And Proposition HH, which voters will consider in November, could further reduce DFPD’s revenue stream.

Both pieces of legislation could reduce DFPD’s budget by about $1 million, he said.

“If we still had that revenue, we would be sitting fine,” he said.

Black said DFPD must find creative ways that are supported by the community to meet future needs.

“We can't continue to provide services at the level that the community expects, and with our call volume, with decreasing funding when our costs are steadily increasing,” he said.

At the same time, recruitment and retention have become concerns, he said. For the first time in recent history, the fire department didn’t have any applicants for a full-time position.

He said it’s expensive to live in Durango, and DFPD must pay a wage that allows firefighters to live and work there. Otherwise, they will take jobs on the Front Range.

Black said every leadership position comes with its challenges.

“It's not an easy position,” he said. “You're trying to solve really complex problems, and they require complex solutions.”

shane@durangoherald.com



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