Lincoln Fire and Rescue officials promoted three fire captains Thursday to help oversee the department's emergency operations.
Chief Micheal Despain made captains Lloyd "Eddie" Mueller, Robert Watton and Michael Smith battalion chiefs at a ceremony at the new joint police-fire station at 6601 Pine Lake Road, where Battalion 2 will be based.
When crews respond to fires, hazardous materials calls and some crashes, the battalion chief oversees and directs operations of the department's 18 crews.
"It was just too hard for one battalion to cover that many stations," Despain said. "Every single time we had multiple fires or incidents at (the same) time, the need was evident."
They join three other battalion chiefs who each supervise a 24-hour shift.
The second battalion will allow the department to divide its incident commanders for the city geographically, department spokeswoman Nancy Crist said.
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Battalion chiefs are generally paid about $110,000, but Despain said these three will start slightly lower because they are newly promoted.
The promotions will save the department about $100,000 a year annually in overtime spending because the department won't have to tap captains to temporarily fill the position when staffing is light, a mandate of the city's labor agreement, Despain said.
Before Despain took the helm, Chief John Huff had seven battalion chiefs who rotated into the incident commander position while overseeing other administrative duties.
But Despain reorganized so the 18 crews on each shift would have a consistent shift supervisor, Crist said.
Still, that meant one battalion chief managed 100 people at once and, when multiple major calls came in, battalion chiefs who were on vacation or off work were called in to help cover, Despain said.
With two battalion chiefs, the ratio is cut in half, he said.
Families of the three new battalion chiefs pinned on their gold badges during Thursday's ceremony, where the three men also received their white hats.
They begin their new assignments Wednesday.
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