In a nod to military tradition, command for the Washington Fire Department was transferred from outgoing Chief Bill Halmich to new Chief Tim Frankenberg during a symbolic ceremony Tuesday evening, July 3.
In the first of three transfers, the department flag was passed to the new chief from the old, then Halmich signed off the command car with his badge number 1051 and transferred command to Frankenberg and his badge number 1072.
At that time, Chief Frankenberg officially signed on in the command car and the transfer was complete.
Frankenberg assumes the top spot after 23 years with the department, working his way up through the ranks serving as a lieutenant, captain and most recently deputy chief for the last seven years.
In his remarks Tuesday night, Frankenberg honored the past and was optimistic about the future.
“I promise to do my best to lead with integrity and to do all in my power to preserve the tradition of service that has been the hallmark of the Washington Volunteer Fire Company,” he said. “The foundation laid by our predecessors is solid as shown by the facilities, apparatus, training and operation. There is a ‘Washington Way’ and it is our duty to continue that forward.”
Frankenberg added there are big shoes to fill and Halmich will still be around to keep everyone on the straight and narrow.
“It is truly a worthy cause that we members of this department undertake in these buildings, with this equipment and training,” he said. “It may sound cliché, but our people are our greatest asset. The men and women of the fire company are what makes this department what it is. This is a person-to-person service, people make the difference.”
The new chief also acknowledged the families of the volunteer firefighters, who are forced to make sacrifices as their loved ones are serving the community and its residents.
“The men and women of the fire company are able to serve only because of a support system,” Frankenberg said. “There is a great debt of gratitude to the spouses and families of each and every one of the uniformed personnel. I cannot say thank you enough to the families and spouses for sharing your loved one. The community appreciates your sacrifice.”
Outgoing Chief Halmich said the change of command ceremony was done for the first time to emphasize the gravity of the event.
“The symbolism is important,” Halmich said. “I’m looking forward to retirement and the best gift is leaving with a clear conscience. This department is not a one-person deal, I’ve had a lot of help.”
Although no longer chief, Halmich, a 50-year member, will remain on the department in an advisory role and will continue the project of possibly placing another firehouse to serve the South Point area of town.
Chief Frankenberg said he has three major ongoing projects already on his plate.
The first is the department and citywide upgrade of all of the portable and mobile radios carried by personnel and equipped in the fire apparatus.
The second is the replacement of all of the department’s self-contained breathing apparatus, and the third is putting a new heavy rescue truck into service.