Community involvement important to new Cherry Hill Fire Chief Chris Callan

Callan took over as fire chief on Jan. 3 and plans to gather input from many to help guide the future of the fire department.

Over a period of more than 20 years, Chris Callan has worked in a ton of roles with the Cherry Hill Fire Department.

From serving on Ladder 2 A Platoon when he first joined the department in the 1990s to becoming a battalion chief and later assistant fire chief, Callan has a wide range of experience in firefighting.

Now, Callan can add another position to his lengthy resume. Two weeks after the retirement former chief Thomas Kolbe, Callan was sworn in on Thursday, Jan. 3, as fire chief of the Cherry Hill Fire Department.

“I didn’t start in the fire department thinking I was going to be the fire chief,” Callan said. “I just wanted a job I felt proud of doing. During my career, certain opportunities came up and I was encouraged to take advantage of those opportunities.”

Callan’s first job came with the former Cherry Hill Fire District №5 as a part-time employee in 1992. The next year, Callan joined the U.S. Navy, working for four years in intelligence and communications. In 1998, the Cherry Hill Fire Department hired Callan full-time, and he has served in the town ever since.

In April 2015, Callan was promoted to assistant fire chief and began to have a hand in the day-to-day operations of the department. Callan spoke highly of Kolbe, saying how he worked alongside the former chief in a number of critical areas. Callan believes this experience properly prepared him to become the fire chief.

“The learning that happened was incredible, being exposed to the budget, human resources issues, planning out the future of the fire department, working through different projects alongside Chief Kolbe,” Callan said. “It certainly provided me the opportunity to learn about the organization.”

Upon taking over his new position, Callan wanted to immediately introduce himself to the many employees across the fire district. One of his biggest projects in his first month was visiting each of the firehouses across town.

“I’m actually going around and visiting each group of people as they work, telling them how I look at things and what my approach to things is, and then hearing their concerns and issues that they have going forward,” Callan said.

“I’ve had the ability to interact with these people on a different level, not only as the assistant fire chief or the battalion chief, but 10 years ago,” Callan added. “I feel like I’ve developed a good relationship with most of the people in the organization that they can trust me and come to me with their concerns and observations.”

Callan believes gathering the input of the fire district’s entire workforce is crucial to the future of the department. He spoke of how the landscape of Cherry Hill Township is constantly changing and how a team effort is required for the fire department to continue serving the community at a high level.

“The town is building and growing and that’s going to increase call demand,” Callan said. “We’re talking about those things as I visit the firehouses and we talk with these men and women.”

One of the biggest initiatives Callan plans to take on as fire chief is increased community involvement. The fire department is hoping to forge better relationships with local organizations, and it is working on a community risk reduction plan to improve safety across town.

Callan recognizes he will need to speak with a lot of people to achieve his goal of strengthening community involvement. Fortunately, it is the one thing he is most looking forward to doing as fire chief.

“I truly enjoy interacting and talking with people, from hearing their concerns to solving a problem at a firehouse,” Callan said. “It’s that human interaction that I truly enjoy.”