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Meet Our New Fire Chief

Meet Our New Fire Chief
Posted on 04/07/2020
Meet Our New Fire ChiefChief Travis Vaughn was appointed to lead the Fire Department when Lonny Owens retired at the end of last year. Travis started his career as a Lenexa firefighter and has served in almost every capacity in the department over 25 years.

What are the main responsibilities of the fire chief?

To ensure the department employs the highest caliber people who are equipped with industry-leading resources and provided a variety of training opportunities to safely and efficiently carry out the City’s values of integrity, teamwork, exceptional service, vision, excellence, and compassion. These things are only achieved with the retention of an exceptional workforce at all levels of the department. The fire chief works most closely with departmental chief officers and City management team staff to ensure programs and processes are in place to deliver optimal performance and outcomes. The fire chief must work collaboratively with various internal and external groups to ensure the needs of the Lenexa Fire Department are considered through a respected professional network built from trust and authenticity.

What has kept you with the Lenexa Fire Department for so long?

There are a variety of reasons I’ve stayed with Lenexa for the past 25 years. First, I think it was the example of my father and mother, who remained loyal to their employer (TWA) for 47 and 35 years, respectively. Secondly, there were people who used their good name and reputation to serve as references and endorse me as a quality candidate. I had opportunities early in my career to interview with another agency, but felt a sense of loyalty to the people who vouched for me and the City that provided me the opportunity. Lastly, making the decision to stay over the long haul became easy having the opportunity to work with exceptional people and for an organization that genuinely cares about its employees. My family and I are forever indebted to the City of Lenexa for the opportunities I’ve been afforded.

Did you want to be a firefighter when you were growing up?

I don’t have any early childhood memories of wanting to be a firefighter while growing up. Maybe I was subconsciously influenced as an adolescent when the fire department responded to a medical emergency at my neighbor’s home. After graduating high school, I was influenced to consider the fire service profession by those three neighborhood friends who were volunteers at the Southern Platte Fire Protection District in Platte County, Missouri. Fortunately, I’ve been surrounded and supported by many good people throughout my career, including those three neighbors who are now an orthopedic surgeon, the fire chief of Overland Park Fire Department, and one of our very own division chiefs in the Lenexa Fire Department.

What are the most common types of calls the LFD responds to?

Medical emergencies are the most common types of calls for service, by a relatively wide margin. Approximately 75% of all incidents fall into this broad category. The Fire Department regularly arrives before the county advanced life support ambulance service (Johnson County Med-Act) and provides care with advanced EMTs and paramedics. We are in a time-based business where seconds count, constantly monitoring service levels, and take personal pride and ownership in the level of credentialing and quality of care our members provide to the sick and injured of our community.

What is the most common question you get about the Lenexa Fire Department?

The most common questions from people outside the organization and not familiar with the fire service is probably related to the firefighter shift schedule. There are a variety of shift schedules used across the nation. Lenexa follows the Berkley schedule with a recurring rotation of 24 hours on duty, 24 hours off duty, 24 hours on duty, 24 hours off duty, 24 hours on duty, and 96 hours off duty. This schedule equates to a 56-hour work week and a 216-hour, 27-day work period.

What qualities do you look for when hiring new firefighters?

I firmly believe nothing we do is more valuable than making the best hiring decisions. The work we do is too important and the community deserves our best, every time. Because of this, we are extremely selective in our hiring process and first seek candidates with exceptional character and values that are aligned with the organization. Certainly, applicants must have the physical abilities and mental aptitude to be eligible for hire, but the other intangible qualities related to a candidate’s moral and ethical compass are what sets them apart and what we seek when making hiring decisions.

Do you have a favorite festival or event that Lenexa hosts?

Lenexa does a tremendous job honoring its heritage and creating festive opportunities for the community to come together. I tend to have a preference toward the larger celebrations, ones that involve the Fire Department’s support. These include the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle, the Fourth of July Parade and the Chili Challenge featuring a spectacular fireworks display.

Published April 7, 2020