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James Maxwell

August 18, 2010 - 3:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, City Fire, James Maxwell.

james_maxwell.jpg

James Maxwell, Batavia's new fire chief, has been on the job for only a few days, but he says he's getting settled in. He's worked with only two platoons of firefighters so far and said he's tried to let them know he believes in open communication.

"Bad news doesn't get better with time, so let's jump right on it," Maxwell said.

So far, though, Maxwell doesn't see any big changes coming and is impressed with the dedication and drive of department staff.

After a couple of years of musical chairs in the chief's office, the main thing now is to establish stable leadership, Maxwell said.

"(Turnover) has been unfair to the firefighters because of the inconsistency it creates," Maxwell said. "Hopefully, we can bring some continuity to the position."

One of the big questions on everybody's mind, Maxwell acknowledged, given his background in running a mixed department -- volunteers working along side full-time paid firefighters: Is the new chief aiming to move Batavia in that direction?

"That issue has not been expressed to me up to this point (by City Hall)," he said. "Two years from now, the organization may look very different than it does today. We don't know that it won't change. We don't have a crystal ball. As for now, the short term, it's business as usual."

August 10, 2010 - 5:38pm

New City of Batavia fire chief Jim Maxwell is a wily veteran of Rochester-area fire departments. All in all, Maxwell has logged over 80 combined years, volunteer and paid, with the North Greece, Lakeshore and Kodak fire departments.

mug_james_maxwell.jpgIn a phone interview today, Maxwell said experiences during his 23 years at Kodak -- 10 of them as a as a haz-mat resource technician -- were especially educational.

"I think nowadays, you need to be prepared for any type of situation," says Maxwell. "I think the experience I've had with my 20-plus years with Kodak...has prepared me for this type of situation. Really, any type of structural fire you go to is a minor haz-mat situation, with the products of combustion that burn nowadays."

The Kodak department, however, did not strictly deal with chemicals. Maxwell says the Kodak complex was like a small city of its own in its heyday -- with all the emergency nuances of a city as well.

"You were looking at a daytime population of 20,000, with over 250 major buildings," he says. "We were 120 members strong...we operated out of three fire stations, and ran about 3,600 calls a year."

During his career, Maxwell has also served as a senior firefighter/EMT, lieutenant, battalion chief, deputy chief and assistant chief. But he has only one year's experience as chief of a department: 2006, with North Greece. Maxwell doesn't expect that to hamper him in Batavia.

"I feel with that background -- and other supervisory positions I've had throughout my career -- I'm prepared for the challenge."

At last night's Batavia City Council meeting, the council voted to give Maxwell a one-year exemption on the residency requirement, which mandates that the city fire chief live within the Genesee County lines.

Maxwell says with a year to go, moving isn't yet his top priority. He plans to first sit down with Fire Captain and former Acting Chief Craig Williams next week to find out about normal station operations. Then he'll set up a formal meeting with the entire station, and research the strategic five-year and 10-year plans for the fire department.

All that while still commuting from Greece. Maxwell says once he's comfortable in the new role, then he'll think about moving.

"It's close to home, living in Monroe County," notes Maxwell. "So with family close by, it makes that commute a lot easier than traveling to different areas of the country."

Commuter or not, Maxwell brings a level of stability -- finally -- to a department that's seen five chiefs in less than five years.

"I'm excited about the opportunity," he says, "and looking forward to working with the dedicated individuals in the organization...and moving forward in the right direction."

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