Chief Kurt Latipow brings extensive experience to the cash-strapped Lompoc Fire Department. Working since June, the new chief was sworn in Tuesday evening as the public and Central Coast firefighters looked on. Before officially replacing retiring Chief Jeffrey States, Latipow made a point of meeting one-on-one with firefighters, city staff, and public safety commissioners.
“My meetings with the department members and others has given me a good understanding of the level of professionalism and dedication our firefighters possess,” says the new Chief. “My role as leader is to provide the tools, support, coaching and mentoring that will enable each and every member of the department to be successful.”
Latipow won’t stop there. He intends to “work with the public” and “current programs,” but wants to go steps further. He will be seeking “opportunities to address safety concerns” in the community. He wants to expand the local citizens’ auxiliary Community Emergency Response Team that assists in disasters. He sites the need to “strengthen our relationship” with the Lompoc Firefighters Foundation. Organized several years ago the foundation has been actively fundraising for the department and providing outreach. He expects new “additional programs” to be developed.
Regarding budget constraints Latipow explained, “My priority is to insure that we are operating as efficiently as we can and to seek out economies of scale internally and externally. And, make sure that all members of the department understand and embrace the need to operate within our approved budget.”
The new chief was chosen after an 18-month long search that drew in 43 applicants. Most recently, he served as the Fire Services Coordinator for Washoe County, Nevada. In his early career he was a paramedic firefighter. He went on to serve as a fire chief in the counties of San Bernardino and Stanislaus, as well as the cities of Arroyo Grande and Ukiah.
The Lompoc Fire Department has not increased its line staffing since 1986 while demand for services has doubled. The department has coped using various strategies, but the task to maintain service levels is proving increasingly difficult.
“The fire service of today must embrace the fact that we can no longer conduct business as usual,” Latipow is quick to point out. “We must take a good hard look at our service delivery model, analyze demands. As our economy recovers we have the reasponsibility to those we serve and protect to develop organizations that meet the needs of our citizens, that are dynamic and sustainable.”