New fire chief settles into job

By John Richmeier
Leavenworth Times – October 29, 2013

leavenworth fire 10292013

Even though Leavenworth’s new fire chief is new to the city, he said firefighters basically are the same everywhere you go.

And Gary Birch knows firefighters. He’s been around the fire service for most of life.

Growing up, his was a firefighter. And Birch himself has now worked in the field for 37 years.

As the new chief, Birch said his job is to make sure Leavenworth’s firefighters have what they need.

Birch, 56, also said he has a responsibility for the safety of the people of Leavenworth as well as visitors to the city. And Birch said he’s big on customer service.

“That’s what we’re here for, to serve the public,” he said.

Birch officially started as the new Leavenworth fire chief Thursday. He takes over the duties of chief from Mark Nietzke, who had been acting chief for about a year. Nietzke has resumed his role as an assistant fire chief.

Birch said he feels he’s well rounded in the fire service.

He comes to the Leavenworth Fire Department after serving as an assistant chief of the Bentonville, Ark., Fire Department for about year.

He also previously served in the Kansas City, Mo., Fire Department for more than 26 years. And he was chief of the Liberty, Mo., Fire Department for seven years. He also served as chief of the Holt Community Fire Protection District in Missouri.

Leavenworth City Manager Scott Miller said Birch has great experience and is exceptionally qualified.

“I feel he’s going to bring new ideas to the Fire Department,” Miller said.

Birch said he likes northwest Arkansas, but he still has family in Missouri. And after moving to Arkansas, he found himself traveling back to Missouri more and more on weekends.

“So I started looking to kind of come back up this direction,” he said.

Birch said he feels very blessed to have been given the job as Leavenworth’s fire chief.

During a Fire Department meeting last week, Birch said he was asked if there are changes on the horizon. His response to that question is, “Well I just got here.”

But Birch said he knows the Leavenworth Fire Department has needs and he feels he can help.

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