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New Commerce Fire Chief in first week on job

COMMERCE – The Commerce Fire Department welcomed its newest member to the city this week. Fire Chief Brian McNevin began his duties Monday.

A native of Texarkana, Texas, McNevin has served 34 years in emergency services and emergency management, with several years spent in Northeast Texas. He most recently served as deputy chief for the Southern Stone County Fire District in southern Missouri.

Prior to his time in Missouri, McNevin served as an EMT in Tyler, fire chief in Canton and a firefighter/EMT in Kilgore. He's also served as emergency management coordinator for Van Zandt County.

McNevin says he and his family were prompted to move back to the area to be closer to family members, a majority of whom live in Winnsboro.

The Southern Stone County Fire District is made up of 285 square miles, while Commerce makes up only 6.5 square miles.

The advantage of a city like Commerce, according to McNevin, is the central location of its fire station. McNevin says that allows responders to reach any part of the city within four minutes. Another advantage, according to McNevin, is the size of its paid and non-paid staff.

Perhaps the biggest plus for the Commerce Fire Department will come upon the arrival of its new ladder fire truck either late this year or early next year. In addition to a fire ladder that's capable of reaching the tops of the tallest buildings in town, the new truck also includes a compressed air foam (CAFS) feature.

''It's starting to be introduced and get accepted into fire service where usually using straight water you may have to have 500 to 1,000 gallons of water to put a fire out,'' says McNevin. ''With CAFS, you can use maybe ten gallons of water.''

McNevin describes the CAFS as a big pile of bubbles that blankets or smothers out the fire. He says he's worked with the same feature during portions of his time in Missouri.

The truck is also projected to go a long way toward lowering the fire department's Insurance Services Office (ISO) rating. The rating is based on a variety of criteria that are aimed at accurately measuring the quality of public fire protection. The city's current rating sits at a four; with the best possible rating being a one.

If a fire district improves its ISO rating, homeowners and businesses in the community often save money on their insurance premiums.

While serving as chief in Canton, McNevin was able to upgrade equipment and services through grants and other alternative funding which helped lower the city's ISO rating from a six to a four within a two year period. That reduced rating also helped reduce property insurance premiums by 20 percent.

Also while serving in Canton, McNevin implemented a cost recovery program that during the first 18 months recovered approximately $36,000 from nonresidents requiring department services. The Commerce Fire Department is also using a similar program.

While serving in Missouri, McNevin generated nearly $500,000 in grant money for the fire district. Grant writing, according to McNevin, will be a major priority in Commerce as well.