Longtime firefighter and current Assistant Fire Chief Marty Hamrick will replace retiring Chief Kevin Miller, Mayor Harold Copenhaver announced Friday after a morning visit with Hamrick.
“Based on what I’ve seen, our fire department is Arkansas’ finest, and Assistant Chief Hamrick obviously has played a significant role in making it that way,” Copenhaver said. “I think a transition from Kevin Miller to Marty Hamrick is a seamless and obvious decision for me.”
Hamrick, 49, joined the Jonesboro Fire Department in 1999 as an entry-level firefighter and moved up through the ranks consistently, excelling at every position. He has earned numerous awards, starting with Arkansas Fire Academy Rookie of the Year, and in 2017 was JFD Officer of the Year.
“I remember when he started, and he has done nothing but excel,” Miller said of Hamrick. “He loves the fire service, loves the Jonesboro Fire Department. He has been totally committed to doing everything he can to improve the department so he can provide better service to the community, and has been since day one.”
Hamrick, who grew up in Cherry Valley helping out on his grandfather’s farm, always assumed farming and ranching would be his life’s work. But some friends on the local volunteer force got him interested in firefighting.
“Then I found out that was something I could really do, and Jonesboro actually paid you for it,” Hamrick said.
More than two decades later, Hamrick and his wife Shannon have been married 21 years with a daughter, Ashton, at Arkansas State University, and a son, Eli, in elementary school. And his job has grown from the back of a firetruck to captain to division chief of training to battalion chief to assistant chief. And now he will lead the entire 124-personnel, seven-station, 10-truck department.
“I was pleased and honored just to be in the conversation for fire chief,” Hamrick said. “Hopefully, I can keep this place moving forward. There are a lot of big shoes to fill from previous chiefs.
“The Fire Department is in a very good spot. My goals are to keep up with the innovation and new technology and techniques to produce an even better product for the people we serve.”
Hamrick spoke of the growing job requirements and demands on firefighters, more as first responders in general than actually putting out fires.
“Every day we are tasked with doing something new,” Hamrick said. “So from a training aspect, you have to be prepared for anything that can happen.”
Hamrick’s resume speaks to the growing number of responsibilities in Jonesboro’s fire department. He has 12 certifications, ranging from rescue technician to arson investigator to hazardous material technician to state Emergency Management Instructor.
“We are prepared to deal with HAZMAT situations, building collapse, urban search and rescue, and confined space, swift water, high-angle rescues. There is really so much more call volume than when I started.”
On the bright side, JFD has grown significantly in number of officers, and “the pay is a heck of a lot better. The equipment is vastly improved, and the way we do it is safer, even though there is always personal risk involved even if you do everything right.”
Hamrick will take over the department July 1, after Miller’s June 30 retirement.