New USAF Fire Chief Appointed

Jim Podolske, the new chief of Fire Emergency Services, is managing more than 9,200 military civilian firefighters, the DOD agency announced April 9.

Jim Podolske was appointed April 8 as chief of Fire Emergency Services for the U.S. Air Force. FES is a division of the Air Force Civil Engineer Center's Readiness Directorate at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. Serving as the USAF fire chief, Podolske will manage more than 9,200 military and civilian firefighters and the programs that provide their equipment, vehicles, and training. He has more than 37 years of Air Force firefighting experience.

Podolske succeeded Donald Warner, who held the position for 11 years until he retired in December 2012, according to a USAF news release.

"Jim brings a lot of strategic-level experience to the job," said Col. Michael Mendoza, who leads the Readiness Directorate. "When we talk future strategy for Air Force Fire Emergency Services, we must infuse policy decisions and the fiscal constraints that are happening now and find the right balance to support our firefighters. Jim understands this, and that's why he's such a great fit for this position. You're not going to find a better advocate for FES." According to the release, Podolske managed a fire vehicle modernization program recently and spearheaded the development of the P-34 Rapid Intervention Vehicle, the first vehicle in USAF crash response fleet to use ultra-high-pressure firefighting technology.

"Jim has worked tirelessly to transform and modernize our vehicle fleet," Mendoza said in the release. "Our vehicle recapitalization rate is going down. That was a huge goal we were able to accomplish thanks to him."

"I'm looking forward to trying to make a difference," Podolske said. "There is a balance between managing existing requirements and preparing for the future, all while effectively supporting the Air Force mission, the public we serve, and ensuring the safety of our Air Force firefighters." He said the biggest immediate obstacles are potential government furloughs.

“These are fiscally uncertain times," Podolske said. "My goal is to offer stability by being consistent with my leadership and communication to the field."

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