Warrenton Fire Protection District announced Friday, June 14, that Capt. Anthony Hayeslip has been promoted to lead the district as its next fire chief.
Hayeslip is a 17-year firefighter with the district, beginning as a volunteer in 2002. He joined the professional staff a year later, and was promoted to captain in 2009.
Hayeslip has been leading the Warrenton firefighters since Fire Chief Mike Owenby was placed on leave and subsequently retired in March. The reason for Owenby’s departure has not been made public. Hayeslip was the senior officer at the fire district, and has now been approved by the district’s board of directors to take on the role of chief.
“It’s still a little weird. ... It takes a little bit to get used to the new title,” Hayeslip commented. “I’ve worked with all these guys a long time. I think they all respect me, and trust that I’m going to keep the district moving forward.”
Hayeslip said Warrenton firefighters will maintain quality service in their core role, and plan to continue community outreach and training programs that the district has been doing. No “earth-shattering” changes are planned for the district, but Hayeslip said staff are taking the opportunity to review all of their practices and find improvements.
Warrenton Fire Protection District has a staff of six firefighters, three fire captains and a fire chief. With Hayeslip moving up, the district plans to promote internally to fill the open captain position, and will hire one new firefighter, Hayeslip said.
Going forward, the new chief said the challenge facing Warrenton Fire is providing quality service for the community using the district’s existing budget. The district’s budget is maxed out with current services, Hayeslip said, meaning any new expenses like replacing old equipment will have to be covered using grants and other alternate funding sources.
At the same time, the fire district has a shortage of volunteers to staff an increasing number of local emergency calls.
“We’ll do everything in our power to work within our means and better streamline what we’ve got, and then see where we’re at,” Hayeslip said. “The problem we run into is having a secondary truck staffed. We rely on a lot of mutual aid (from other districts) because we don’t have the staffing to man a second truck.
“As years go by, we get busier and busier, and the frequency of two calls back-to-back is more often. ... The biggest challenge for any fire department, long term, is always going to be staffing.”
Malissa Booth, who recently became president of the fire district's board of directors, said Hayeslip has already worked with the board to plan how to recruit and staff more volunteer firefighters. Eventually, she said the district wants to regularly have enough volunteers available to staff a second crew on certain days.
"We're really trying to get creative in how we build the department, how we build the volunteer side of things," Booth commented. She added that Hayeslip had already established a good rapport with the volunteer and career staff, and had done a tremendous job as acting chief.
Booth said the fire board focused on approving Hayeslip as chief, rather than considering other candidates, because he already had strong support from the rest of the staff.
Board member Rob Vogelgesang commended Hayeslip's experience with the fire district and time working within the community, and said it was important that Hayeslip has been honest and straightforward with information.
“He came very highly recommended by volunteer and career staff. He’s been a member of the department for many years. He knows what needs to be done to get this district moving in a forward direction,” Vogelgesang commented.