New St. Clair Shores Fire Chief James Piper stands at Central Fire Station Jan. 18.

New St. Clair Shores Fire Chief James Piper stands at Central Fire Station Jan. 18.

Photo by Kristyne E. Demske

New St. Clair Shores fire chief has experience in Saudi Arabia

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published January 23, 2018

ST. CLAIR SHORES — The city’s newest fire chief came from around the world to serve in St. Clair Shores.

“The last place I worked was for a municipal fire department in Saudi Arabia,” said James Piper, from Texas.

Piper was sworn in as chief of the St. Clair Shores Fire Department Jan. 15. He last spent four years as deputy chief in the “purpose-built” town surrounding a science and technology university in Saudi Arabia. 

“My love for this all started out when I was 13 years old, volunteering with the Red Cross,” Piper said. “That expanded into a stint with the U.S. Army Reserves as a medic. Then EMS since 1995, and then transitioned over to when I became a paramedic. I started working for the fire department (and) fell in love with it.”

He has experience running the emergency medical service, or EMS, division and training for the last department he worked for in Texas before working in Saudi Arabia. 

Piper, 40, is married to Julie Piper, a teacher, and has a son who is about to graduate from high school and a daughter in eighth grade. He said his family will relocate after his son’s graduation.

He said he’s looking forward to making an impact as chief.

“Getting a chance to just learn what makes St. Clair Shores Fire Department great, I’ve already gotten some really good indications,” he said. “I’m a data guy — I love strategic planning. Just my goal is to take all the things that are already great about St. Clair Shores Fire (Department) and make that plan. What are we going to do in two weeks, two years, in six years.”

Piper said he isn’t in St. Clair Shores to make “any major changes.”

“We already do things great. My plan is just to work with the fantastic men and women we have here and plan ahead,” he said. “Along the way, be their coach, their biggest fan and the advocate that I can be for them. That’s my goal.”

Piper’s salary as fire chief will be approximately $94,000, according to city administration.

Police Chief Todd Woodcox said that he’s looking forward to working with Piper.

“Interim Chief Ryan Koepp did an outstanding job during the interim, but I look forward to working with the new fire chief, specifically on emergency management issues throughout the city,” said Woodcox.