Fire chief announces retirement

Department to get grant money for new hires

By: Eric Czarnik | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published September 18, 2020

 Fire Chief Chris Martin speaks during a prior 9-11 ceremony in Sterling Heights. He recently announced that he will be retiring  Sept. 30.

Fire Chief Chris Martin speaks during a prior 9-11 ceremony in Sterling Heights. He recently announced that he will be retiring Sept. 30.

File photo by Erin Sanchez

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STERLING HEIGHTS — Tears and smiles accompanied the Sterling Heights City Council’s congratulations of Fire Chief Chris Martin ahead of his planned Sept. 30 retirement.

During the Sept. 15 council meeting, Sterling Heights Mayor Michael Taylor read a city proclamation honoring and thanking Martin for his 31 years of service at the city’s Fire Department.

“I got an email about this that says that I can present this to you down there, but there’s no hugging,” Taylor quipped to Martin, alluding to social distancing guidelines.

According to city officials, Martin, 53, joined the Fire Department in 1989, when he was 22 years old. As his career matured, he climbed the promotion ladder — lieutenant, captain, battalion chief and interim fire chief — before officially becoming the chief in December 2012.

Among the accomplishments that the city mentioned were Martin’s role in ushering in the department’s advanced life support transportation system, as well as the start of the Survival Coin program that highlights cardiac event rescue stories.

City officials also praised the Fire Department’s policies and procedures, few injuries and response times that average around five minutes. They praised the department’s high public satisfaction metrics and its progress in upgrading its Insurance Services Office rating from 4 to 2, which — according to the city’s website — rates the department’s performance among the highest for Michigan’s fire departments.

“Chief Martin’s commitment to the safety of this community and dedication to the Fire Department over his career has been more than commendable,” City Manager Mark Vanderpool said. “These high marks are only possible through strong leadership in the department, including the fire chief.”

When it was time for the City Council to speak, multiple members praised Martin for his role in making the Fire Department the “premier” one in Michigan.

Councilwoman Barbara Ziarko called it a bittersweet moment and called Martin professional and dedicated. Councilwoman Maria Schmidt thanked Martin for his integrity, energy, hard work and forward thinking. She said that, at first, she had doubts whether Martin was right for the chief job, but, “Boy, did you prove me wrong.”

Councilman Michael Radtke praised the chief for leaving the department better than he found it. And Taylor said it’s “hard to imagine the city of Sterling Heights Fire Department without Chris Martin.”

In response, Martin said the experience gave him a chance to do the things that a firefighter dreams of. He thanked the city and said it will be very hard to leave.

“This has been such a ride,” he said.

In a press release, the city said Martin has created a succession plan over the years, by which more than 50 firefighters have been hired. The release also tied his leadership to acquiring over $3 million in state and federal grants “in just the past few years alone.”

On Sept. 16, U.S. Democratic Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters announced in a statement that the Sterling Heights Fire Department will get $1,766,993 through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. The funding may be used to hire new fire staff.

In a statement, Assistant Fire Chief Edwin Miller said his department is happy to get the grant.

“The grant will allow the Fire Department to hire six new firefighters, placing an additional response vehicle to be staffed daily,” he said. “The six new firefighters will increase each shift by two, improving our ability to have adequate staffing on the initial response to fires and other calls for assistance.”

According to Vanderpool, Miller will become the department’s interim chief starting Oct. 1 and will serve in that role until the city finishes its recruiting efforts for a long-term replacement for Martin.

Learn more about the Sterling Heights Fire Department by visiting www.sterling-heights.net or by calling (586) 446-2950.

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