KAMIAH — Idaho Falls firefighter Bill Arsenault was appointed last week as the Kamiah area’s new fire/EMS chief. This selection follows the retirement of Dan Musgrave who served in Kamiah for 41 years.
Arsenault will be sworn-in Oct. 28, at the fire station, with his reporting date Nov. 2, where he will lead a staff of 20 fire/EMS personnel. His salary will be $75,000. The appointment was in a combined effort and in the authority of the Joint Powers Agreement between the City of Kamiah and the Kamiah Rural Fire District.
Both Mayor Betty Heater and district chairman Dan Musgrave stated, “We are very excited to welcome Bill Arsenault as the new Fire/EMS Chief. The Kamiah Fire-Rescue organization has played a very important part in our community for a long time. We have been fortunate to have generations of dedicated professionals who have protected and cared for us. As we look ahead to the future, it is essential the new leader prepare our community for significant changes in the emergency response profession. Bill Arsenault has proven his ability to be both, a great fire/EMS chief and leader, who can prepare the organization for these changes.”
In an interview last week, Arsenault stated his clear focus on his responsibilities.
“First and foremost, it’s service to people,” he said, “and when I look at service to people, that encompasses two groups: members of the organization, but also members of the community and the guests who come to the community.”
“I want to make sure people who respond to those calls are trained appropriately, are meeting standards,” Arsenault continued, “and that our customers, which are the citizens we serve, that they are happy with the service we are brining to the table.”
Arsenault will oversee both the city and rural district fire departments, and Kamiah Ambulance service, which includes three ambulances and eight firefighting vehicles, to serve an area of approximately 3,000 people. He replaces Leo Gilbride who served less than a month. Meanwhile, the department is under supervision of interim chief, Musgrave.
Arsenault currently works for the 130-person Idaho Falls Fire Department, as swing-up captain, where he has also served as a paramedic, driver, and overseeing 65 personnel as wildland fire program manager for four and a half years. He also teaches at the national fire academy in Maryland in its leadership program and operational safety, and was both an EMS and fire instructor for the state of Idaho.
Prior to this, he served as EMS operations supervisor for Gem County Fire EMS, and as well as worked in firefighting for both the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. He has been an emergency medical services provider since 1991 (of which 22 years was as a paramedic), involved in structure fire fighting since 1994 and wildland fire since 1996. Born and raised in Great Falls, Mont., Arsenault started this public service work as a volunteer firefighter and emergency medical responder, and through his career has worked with both volunteer and career departments, as well as ones that combine both aspects, in Montana, Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
“I heard they were looking for someone with all those different pieces that I have,” Arsenault said, of his pursuing the Kamiah position. “With the background I have in working with these different walks of life and with EMS, I thought I could bring that mix of experience here.”
Having been raised and lived in small towns, Arsenault said he understands the service needs for rural communities and as a fire/EMS agency in maintaining the “small town feel,” while also operating a professional and modern department. His administration transition will focus on all personnel being one group, working toward a “one team concept.”
“I do realize the history that has gone on lately,” Arsenault said, “but that was the past, and we’re going to focus on what to do for the future.” This includes working on improvements in wildland fire response, personnel training, in securing grants to fund both programs and equipment, and also preparing for future growth.
Arsenault sees the success of the department going forward as ensuring it has the involvement of not just its personnel, but the community, as well.
“Volunteers are not going to go away. What I would like to see is an increase,” he said, “as well as a junior firefighter program.” For both programs, he encourages those who are interested to contact him: email@example.com . For the junior program, it would be open to those ages 16 to 18, and they would be trained in both fire suppression and emergency medical services, “to prepare them to be full volunteer firefighters,” he said, “and eventually career firefighters if that’s their life plan.” Tentatively, he plans to hold a joint fire/EMS academy for both groups starting in January.
Arsenault is married and the couple has three children. He recognized Musgrave’s 40 years of service to the department and, “he is ready to enjoy time with his family and that is well-deserved.”