New fire chief gets early jump on new job

New fire chief gets early jump on job

READING, Pa. - Fire crews in Reading had their hands full Thursday, as they battled a two-alarm fire that sent two firefighters to the hospital.

The fire broke out the same day the mayor introduced the city's new fire chief.

David Hollinger, a Reading native, hasn't even officially started, but he was on the scene of the fire in the 1100 block of Birch Street around 5 a.m.

"The first firefighter in on the hose line had a small burn above his eye, there was also a steam burn on his shoulder and back," said acting fire chief Jeffrey Squibb.

The other firefighter suffered heat exhaustion. Both were treated and released from the hospital, and the cause of the fire is under investigation, said fire officials.

Hollinger retired last year as a fire lieutenant in Washington, D.C.

"I'm the first fire chief that's been hired from outside the department in memory," he said.

He is coming on board as the Reading department fights through a manpower shortage.

"The guys and the medics are tired now, they're working all the time," said Squibb.

More injuries have happened since more than 20 people retired in the last two years, and cuts forced them to go from 22 men on duty to 18, said officials.

"From my perspective, I'm from Washington, D.C., we rolled out with twice the amount of firefighters on the engines as they do here in Reading," said Hollinger, who left the city years ago to take a job in Alexandria, Va.

The fire department announced Thursday, 11 firefighters and one medic will join the ranks in June. Hollinger said dealing with the shortage is one of his top priorities.

"What I'm going to look at is where we can go, how we can get there, and that's going to be a collaborative effort," said Hollinger.  

The department hopes to have the extra bodies fully trained by the end of November. Hollinger's first day on the job is June 1. He will replace Squibb, who has served as the acting chief since Kevin Kulp announced his retirement in January.

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