Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird announced Tuesday that Fire Chief Micheal Despain will retire in March 2020.
Despain came to Lincoln Fire and Rescue (LFR) in July 2016 after a 32-year fire service career in California.
Mayor Gaylor Baird thanked Despain for his work to maintain one of the best cardiac survival rates in the nation; to replace 13 outdated fire apparatus; to implement the fire station relocation plan; and to improve response times by 8 percent despite an 18 percent increase in workload.
“Chief Despain has a 35-year record of public service, and we have been fortunate to have his leadership at Lincoln Fire and Rescue during a time of growth and change,” Gaylor Baird said. “I appreciate the good relationships he developed with the community, elected officials and the employees of LFR. His hard work, data-driven approach and commitment to excellence have helped to make Lincoln a safer community.”
Despain said he is providing his retirement notice now to allow adequate time for a recruitment process and to help with the transition. His final day at LFR will be March 6, 2020.
“I’ve been extremely honored and blessed to work alongside the men and women of Lincoln Fire and Rescue, and even more blessed to be welcomed into the community by friends, neighbors and colleagues,” said Despain. “However, after 35 years in the fire service. it’s time to transition into the next phase of life while I’m still healthy and LFR is in a good place. I’m grateful to former Mayor Chris Beutler for the opportunity to come to Lincoln and to Mayor Gaylor Baird for her support and leadership since she took office. My family and I intend to stay in Lincoln for the foreseeable future and explore more ways to give back to the community we’ve come to love.”
LFR was nationally reaccredited in March 2019 and remains one of the longest accredited fire agencies in the nation. The agency has been awarded “Gold Plus” status by the American Heart Association “Mission Lifeline” program in 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Under Chief Despain, LFR received over $3 million in grants, and the cost of fire service per capita remained 31 percent below the regional comparative average. The ratio of female to male firefighters is now almost triple the national average. The City’s fire insurance rating was upgraded for the first time since 1974, reducing costs for property owners
The Center for Public Safety Excellence presented LFR with the inaugural Randy R. Bruegman Agency Innovation award in 2019.
LFR has a staff of about 325 and provides emergency response to fires, vehicle crashes and medical emergencies and emergency ambulance transportation; delivers fire safety education; promotes fire prevention to local residents and businesses; and is the host agency for Nebraska Task Force One, an Urban Search and Rescue Team serving as a component of FEMA’s national disaster response system.