North Carolina native comes with volunteer, career, leadership and training credentials
The Botetourt fire and rescue volunteer captains and chiefs along with about a dozen career officers and crew members, were introduced to the county’s new Chief of Fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Monday evening in Fincastle.
Matthew Britt, currently the coordinator of fire and rescue training for Randolph Community College in Asheboro, N.C., will be on the job May 22.
He was introduced to the community during a press conference Tuesday morning at Greenfield Education and Training Center.
It was a bittersweet change of leadership for the Department of Fire and EMS. Britt will take over from interim Chief Tommy Fuqua, who was filling the role on interim basis for the second time— the latest after the Chief Jeff Beckner passed away in June of last year after battling cancer.
The Board of Supervisors and County Administrator Gary Larrowe took their time looking for a new chief. Larrowe made reference to the pace Monday night when he acknowledged that the administration wanted to be respectful of Beckner and to give the department members time to heal.
Britt comes to Botetourt with a wealth of volunteer and other fire and EMS service.
His work in fire and EMS began when he was 16 when he joined his local volunteer fire department in North Carolina.
Previous to that, he served eight years as a professional firefighter for the Town of Southern Pines in central North Carolina. He has 13 years of volunteer fire service and seven years of volunteer leadership. He also spent six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, earning an honorable discharge in 2010.
For the past year and a half, he has been in his current position.
Britt said all of the fire and EMS training in North Carolina is done through the community college system.
Britt has a Master of Public Administration degree with a concentration in emergency services management and a Bachelor of Science degree in fire administration, both from Columbia Southern University. He has completed the Managing Fire Officer Program at the National Fire Academy and has been accepted into the Executive Fire Officer Program beginning this fall.
As Botetourt’s chief, Britt will oversee a combined fire and EMS system of a dozen volunteer fire departments and rescue squads and a career department of more than 50 full- and part-time staff. He will manage the daily operations of the department, serve as Emergency Services Coordinator for the county, and administer the budget and capital improvements plan for the fire and EMS system.
“Chief Britt is going to be a great addition to the leadership in Botetourt County,” Larrowe said. “His broad experience, energy and leadership make him an excellent choice for our next chief.”
“The greatest thing about this opportunity is being able to work with the firefighters and EMS workers of Botetourt County,” said Britt. “I am committed to being a resource to the people and programs already in place within the county.”
Larrowe thanked the committee that worked for months to fill the chief’s position. The committee was comprised of Dean Paderick, Ray Sloan, Tommy Fuqua, Mary Blackburn, Frank Leonard, Jack Leffel and himself.
Larrowe said three things were really important to the committee: the person selected had to have a volunteer background and volunteer organizations had to be important; the person had to have common sense and practical knowledge associated with fire and EMS, and the person had to be able to communicate.
From what they were able to learn, Larrowe said, Britt brings those qualities with him.
Larrowe also asked the selection committee to stay in place for a while, but to shift its focus to being an operational advisory committee so the new chief has a group to turn to for guidance and to answer questions when needed.
Larrowe called Britt a “hose-dragging leader…someone who can move us forward.”
“It’s an honor and I look forward to getting started,” Britt told the fire and EMS members. He said volunteering has been an important part of his life.
Britt said one of his first orders of business when he gets started will be meeting with the volunteer chiefs and captains. He said he wants to find out what’s working and what might be working, “what’s good and what can be improved…. My goal is to be a resource for you.”
Britt is the fourth leader of the county fire and EMS. The overall department was established in the spring of 2012 with an Emergency Services Director. Tommy Fuqua was appointed interim director in 2013, and in September 2014, Beckner was appointed the first Chief of Fire & EMS after the county reorganized the department and created the chief position.
The county hired its first career staff in 2001.
The department, in conjunction with the volunteer fire and rescue organizations, is responsible for providing fire, EMS, and hazardous materials responses, emergency management, special operations (water, search, and technical rescue), and fire prevention and public education efforts. As such, the department serves as a vital and visible part of the county’s total services to citizens, an announcement from the county said.
— Ed McCoy