ESTER, Alaska After weeks of not having a chief, the Ester Volunteer Fire Department welcomed Jeff Conner as the new Fire Chief.
Daniel Rosales, a resident engineer with the Ester Department says that they have been working with Chena-Goldstream to provide chief services. "So I am very excited to have our new chief in-house, he is very excited to start taking over this new opportunity, and we are looking forward to it," said Rosales.
Conner said that his job is made easier by coming to a department with a strong volunteer core, good retention and high morale, something that is challenging at volunteer departments.
Conner received a baptism by fire, after less than 8 hours on the job, when the Blue Loon went up in flames. He had just received parts of his gear less than an hour before the call came in. He said fighting a fire with his new team so quickly gave the perfect opportunity for him to see how they work.
"It was great to meet my crews, the Ester volunteers on scene, and they all did a terrific job," said Conner.
Local fire chiefs and members of the community came to a pinning ceremony to meet the new chief. Robert Grove has lived in Ester since 1977 and was a member of the department for 20 years and he is currently the chairman of the fire service area commission for Ester. Grove said he came out to meet the new chief and catch up with old friends.
"We are so fortunate to have somebody of the caliber of Jeff Conner, 25 years, he started out in the, as you heard earlier, in different volunteer fire departments, so he knows both sides of firefighting with a municipal fire department and a volunteer, so I am quite impressed," said Grove.
Conner has worked for multiple volunteer fire departments in the Fairbanks area as well as Fairbanks Fire Department and the Seattle Fire Department. He also served in Iraq with the Marines and is currently an Army National Guard medic.
"I've always admired the Ester community, they're sense of community, this job has opened up as a terrific opportunity. Went through the interview process and the board saw some potential in me, so I look forward to the challenge of taking over as fire chief," said Conner.