by DANNY WADE | Senior Editor
For the first time in almost three decades, the Humboldt Fire Department has a new fire chief. Greg Lencioni was named fire chief on April 10 when the Humboldt Board of Mayor and Aldermen unanimously voted to offer him the position.
Former Fire Chief Chester B. Owens was promoted as chief in 1994 when the late Martha Hawks was mayor of Humboldt. Owens spent 28 years as chief. Upon Owen’s retirement last August, Assistant Chief Leroy Kail served as acting chief until a permanent chief was named.
Now, with almost two months under his belt, Chief Lencioni has hit the ground running. Right off the bat, Lencioni had a few hurdles to tackle—working on a budget and pay scale for the fire department, and it was Strawberry Festival time in Humboldt.
Lencioni, being promoted from captain to chief, has left the department with vacant positions. As captain, Lencioni served as fire inspector. Now, as chief, he is still the fire inspector, but will promote someone to that position soon.
“My immediate agenda is getting a pay scale and filling positions,” Chief Lencioni expounded. “I would like to have two captains—one to be fire inspector and one over training.”
Building the chain of command will be key for the fire department to operate efficiently. Chief Lencioni said there are currently no captains and three lieutenants serving as officers for the Humboldt Fire Department. He noted that there are 11 firefighters, but there are seven open firefighters positions to fill.
One of the first promotions Chief Lencioni wants to materialize will promoting a lieutenant to captain who will train to be fire inspector. This candidate must attend the fire inspector academy and pass the test. Lencioni said there is more to being fire inspector than investigating fires. The fire inspector works with building codes that apply to every structure within the city. Knowing about the city’s water systems, towers, lines, locations of fire hydrants and other capacities are part of the training. Sprinkler systems and other fire prevention technology and equipment fall under the fire inspector’s duties.
Chief Lencioni said it could take up to a year for the fire inspector candidate to become certified. In the meantime, Lencioni will still serve as the city’s fire inspector.
“We will be doing more training and a lot of it will be in-house,” Lencioni said of preparing the department. “We recently hired five that are ready to go to the academy. We’ll probably have three in one class and two in a later class. The academy has a spring and fall course.”
With his feet barely wet, Chief Lencioni already has a wish list of things for the fire department. He would not divulge very much on the list, but he did say there would be positive changes coming down the pike.
One of those changes will be holding monthly department meetings and weekly officer meetings. At least once a month, there will be training drills to keep up to date. Some of these could be refresher courses while others would be new training skills. The chief said some training sessions will be hands on while others will be what he called “tabletop” sessions. This type of training will use scenarios of various situations firefighters might encounter. Lencioni said the key would be how to handle the situation the safest way. Not only will Lencioni use current Humboldt firefighters to lead the training sessions, he also plans to bring in outside instructors. Lencioni wants the firefighters to be highly trained in multiple techniques.
Lencioni was born and raised in Oak Park, Ill., a suburb of Chicago. In July of 1989, the family moved to Humboldt. He graduated from Humboldt High School in 1990. He and his wife, Natalie, have two boys. Mitchell is 23 and Andrew is 19.
He says he does not have very many hobbies, but he does enjoy his remote control cars.
Lencioni was hired to be a Humboldt firefighter in 1994, the same year Chief Owens was promoted. In 2017, he was promoted to captain and became fire inspector.
Since being promoted to chief, Lencioni has been busy. He began doing updates, upgrades and maintenance to the facilities and some of the vehicles. He and the staff have been cleaning up the buildings, polishing the floors, doing some painting and touch ups, and other things to spruce up their home away from home.
He has reached out and met with other local fire departments and emergency professionals. He met with the director of Gibson County Emergency Management Agency, fire chiefs and firefighters from Medina and Gibson, and plans to meet with Trenton, Milan and Madison County soon. Lencioni said it is important to build relationships with the other local fire departments. Often times, neighboring fire departments lend assistance for bigger fires or emergency incidents. He knows the importance of working together as a team when needed.
Chief Lencioni says enjoys the comradery of the firefighters and watching them grow. He said his best memories are working and training with his brothers, and watching them mature as firefighters.
“I want the department to get the best training, have a nice place to work and continue to build morale,” Chief Lencioni said of his firefighters. “I trust these guys with everything I have. I know they’ve got my back and I’ve got theirs.”