TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – Climbing the ladder for 31 years, that’s what it takes to become a fire chief. At least that’s what it took for Chief Craig Duke in Topeka.
“I worked up through the ranks from firefighter, apparatus operator, captain, to battalion chief, to assistant chief, to deputy chief,” Chief Duke said.
Quite the long resume, but it’s what made Chief Duke stick out as the perfect choice for Topeka’s fire chief in 2017.
“This is a great career, and it is a career.”Chief Craig Duke
Reaching this career milestone though, doesn’t mean the hard work stops.
“I meet with people at 7:00 in the morning at a coffee shop, I meet with elected officials. Usually try to meet on their schedules to talk about fire service and EMS in their districts. Then I get into the office and look at emails, with a hot cup of tea.”
That’s just where he gets things started for the day. Since he was hired, he’s been pushing for an advanced life support program.
That program is intended to expand knowledge of basic life saving skills, which it did this January, as nine paramedics from two stations in town were the first to go it.
“Those paramedics are at the busiest stations in town right now. We’re waiting to see the positive impact they make,” said Duke. “I’d like to see it grow, I think it should grow to where we have advanced life support from whatever station were operating from.”
One of his biggest goals for the department is getting accreditation.
“It doesn’t happen over night, we have to do other things to get there. We’re looking at how to better respond to the needs of the community,” Duke said. “We are working to get a community forum together. We’re going to get non-community involved people and give them a presentation of ‘this is who we are, this is where we are, this is the national standard, where would you like us to go?”
It’s also a priority of his to get to know the future of the department.
“My whole day I sat over there and interviewed individuals [going through the recruit process]. I just ask, tell me about yourself and why you want to be a firefighter,” said Duke. “I want to get to know them, what they’re wanting to do themselves for the rest of their life.”
While being chief has come with a lot of responsibility, it’s also created a life-long friendship.
“Chief [Bill] Cochran…we get along really well,” Chief Duke said, laughing. “There has to be lighter sides to the work, and sometimes we push the limit on that one, but we work on things that we both could have an impact on positively.”
This year, the department is celebrating 150 years and they’re planning something big. April 25, 2020 they’re going to have a celebration at the Evergy plaza.