Name: Robert Sivak
Position with the city: Fire Chief
For how long: Seven years as chief, 35 years total with the department, including four years as a volunteer firefighter.
When did you move to Dickinson? Born and raised here.
You have a long history with the Dickinson Fire Department. What has been your favorite experience over the years? Least favorite?
Favorite experiences include hosting the 125th annual North Dakota Firefighter’s Convention in 2009; having two of our assistant fire chiefs recognized by the American Legion as North Dakota State Firefighters of the year (Ed Sticka and Larry Callahan); having past Dickinson Fire Chief Joe Boespflug inducted into the North Dakota Firefighter’s Museum in Garrison.
The least favorite experience was dealing with the aftermath of the 2009 tornado.
The Dickinson Fire Department, like the rest of the city, has been experiencing changes. What has been the biggest challenge in this time of growth?
The biggest challenge with the growth of our community is to maintain a level of service where we can respond soon enough and with enough manpower to prevent harm. With the majority of our firefighters being volunteers and responding from work or home, the increased travel distances and traffic density are a real challenge. Additionally, the dramatic increase we’ve seen in calls for service is impacting our volunteers at work and at home. Recognizing this, the City Commission has authorized us to hire three full-time firefighters in 2014. That will bring full-time firefighter numbers to four; with administration, fire prevention and public education staff numbering five. All of our positions have emergency response duties.
What are you most looking forward to with the new Public Safety Center? What will you miss most about the downtown fire station?
Having response equipment on that end of town will be a real benefit. The developments in the north and west areas of Dickinson are well beyond the 1.5-mile recommended travel distance from our current station for a pumper and, in some cases, already beyond the 2.5-mile recommended travel distance for a ladder truck. In addition, our fire inspectors need the room the new offices and plan review area will provide.
The downtown station will transition to a substation roll. Although administrative offices will re-locate to the new building, the downtown station will remain a functioning fire station. I have to admit that after all the years spent driving downtown to go to work, it will be quite different going in the opposite direction.
What is the biggest misconception about the Dickinson Fire Department that you’ve encountered over the years?
The biggest misconception is that the Dickinson Fire Department is a fully staffed career department. Although that speaks highly of the professionalism of our members, the majority of our members are volunteers.
Have you ever had to rescue a cat from a tree?
Yes. No further comment.