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A new chief in town

The new Black Forest fire chief is Bryan Jack, a former U.S. Forest Service hotshot and battalion chief for the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District. Jack was one of three finalists for the job, including the Black Forest acting fire chief, Jim Rebitski; and Scott Van Boerum, fire chief for the Arivaca Fire District in Arizona. Despite his years in the fire service, Jack hadnít planned on becoming a fire chief.Wanting to ìtry something differentî after leaving the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District, Jack went back to school for a bachelorís degree in public administration, with the goal of becoming a town or city manager. He did reach that goal as the Simla Town Administrator; however, he said, ìIt simply wasnít what I expected. I found the fire service much more rewarding.î He described the Black Forest chiefís position as ìa perfect opportunity to get back into the fire service.îJack does not foresee any significant changes within the department for now. ìI still have a lot of information to gather about where weíre at as an organization and where we think the agency wants to go as a collective. We are going to focus on the agency for at least this first year, though, internally.îOne of the strengths Jack brings to his position is a firm belief in building relationships, which he feels is especially important for fire departments. ìAll of the districts struggle to meet certain benchmarks, and most of that is primarily financially driven. Relationship building is the foundation for cooperation and coordination.î When emergency responders establish personal working relationships, ìWe understand the difficulties that each district faces,î he said. ìWe understand what our own personal districtís strengths are and where we need improvement.î Being able to share experiences, knowledge and physical resources is vital to small departments in providing a high level of service to the communities, Jack said.One challenge he faces as the new chief is the lingering effect of the Black Forest fire. ìThe community is still in a healing process and a recovery process from the Black Forest fire,î he said. ìThatís a huge challenge.îAnother challenge is dealing with the aftermath of the public jousting between then-chief Bob Harvey and then-sheriff Terry Maketa. ìEven though that may have been between two individuals, it still brought the agency down a little bit,î Jack said. ìThere was a morale issue based on that.î Jack said he and the members of the department just want to move on.He also said the new El Paso County Sheriff, Bill Elder, echoed those sentiments when he and Jack met in January. ìHeís focused on cooperation and open lines of communication and relationship building as well. I think we both look at it as a fresh start for both organizations,î Jack said. ìQuite frankly, I think weíre both just interested in moving forward and working where we can and contributing where we can to improvements in emergency services on a regionalized basis.îJack grew up in the Monument area and moved to Palmer Lake when he started a family. ìPalmer Lake is a very unique, small community, and I see lots of the same aspects of that in Black Forest,î he said. ìI like that. It seems like a tight-knit, close community that wants to be involved with their fire department, which is outstanding. Itís great to have community support and see the level of involvement the community has displayed.î He said the fire department has ìwonderful staff at all levels,î as well as ìgreat facilities and equipment.îJack doesnít get much downtime outside of his new fire chief duties. He and his wife, who works for the Elbert County Sheriffís Office, have three children in elementary school; and they also raise livestock. Jack is an assistant wrestling coach at Calhan High School and is also involved with the Calhan Pee Wee wrestling program.ìIím excited to be back in the fire service,î Jack said. ìIím excited to work, not only with all of the great resources in Black Forest, but with all of the great resources that are in the county. There is so much potential at all of the organizations in this county to create a system of outstanding emergency services.î

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