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Hall fire chief heads up state group

Kimbrell represents 651 departments

POSTED: August 11, 2010 9:45 p.m.

Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell, center, and Battalion Chief Al Lovingood, left, meet with International Equipment Specialist Lou Mazure to discuss the county's ambulance at Station 7 Wednesday afternoon. Kimbrell was recently named president of the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs.

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As a member of the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs executive board for the past eight years, Hall County Fire Chief David Kimbrell has gotten to know public safety officials hailing from the tiniest of small-town volunteer departments to the largest, most complex agencies.

"Most of them face the same issues, just on different scales," Kimbrell said.

This month Kimbrell, who has led Georgia's seventh-largest fire department since 2005, was named president of the association, which represents 651 member departments in Georgia.

"It is an honor," Kimbrell said. "You're now the main advocate for the fire departments in Georgia."

Foremost on the group's agenda as it lobbies state lawmakers is changing the indemnity laws for firefighters killed in the line of duty. Current Georgia law authorizes a $75,000 payment to the beneficiaries of married firefighters but no indemnity for unmarried firefighters who lose their lives on the job.

"We've got a lot of single firefighters that a lot of people rely on," Kimbrell said.

Kimbrell and the association's legislative council will also lobby for continued funding of the Georgia Fire Academy in Forsyth, which has seen cuts that have affected a fire officer development program the group initiated.
The Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs in recent years has also developed a strategic plan for fire services that has become a model for other states.

Kimbrell, 47, is a native of South Carolina who grew up in Habersham County, where he worked in the Baldwin and Cornelia fire departments and Habersham County Emergency Medical Services.

Kimbrell was a shift lieutenant when an April 1990 tragedy on a fire call led him to change the focus of his career.

Kimbrell's 19-year-old firefighting partner, Cale Thomason, died battling an arson fire in Cornelia.

"That really motivated me to work on the fire prevention side," Kimbrell said.

Kimbrell joined Hall County Fire and Emergency Services in 1991 as an inspector in the fire prevention unit. He served various roles in the department before his appointment five years ago as fire chief and emergency management director.

Kimbrell has seen the department go from a booming growth period funded by voter-approved sales taxes to a dramatic slowdown in recent years prompted by the down economy.

"It's been a tremendous change," Kimbrell said.

In his time with the association, Kimbrell said he's gotten a good feel for the varied fire departments across the state.

"Some departments do a great job with fire prevention and others don't have fire prevention," he said. "Others do a good job with suppression, while there are some that struggle to get enough people to the scene."

Kimbrell said he appreciates the many contacts he's made with other members of the group and the advice they give him. Now some will be turning to him for the advice.

"It is a lot of responsibility, to continue to lead it forward," he said.



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