Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird today announced that former Fire Chief Micheal Despain will return to Lincoln Fire and Rescue on a contract basis as Interim Chief beginning July 15. Despain served as Lincoln Fire Chief from July 2016 through March 2020, when he retired after a 35-year career in the fire service. He is currently serving in an interim role as the Chief of Rocklin, California's Fire Department, while his family continues to live in Lincoln.
"Mike is a highly sought after consultant for Departments across the nation," said Mayor Gaylor Baird. "I appreciate his willingness to serve the City of Lincoln while we determine the best way to execute a new Fire Chief search process that allows for greater community participation and input during the pandemic. We have not yet determined what that will look like, but plan to design the process in the near future, in the hope that we can select a permanent Chief by the end of the year."
"As much as I was looking forward to retirement, it is an honor to return to lead the great team at Lincoln Fire and Rescue and to contribute to the city's response to this unprecedented pandemic," Despain said.
The Mayor thanked Assistant Fire Chief Pat Borer for serving as Interim Chief since Despain's retirement and for his work as a member of Unified Command during the pandemic. Borer will return to his previous position when Despain returns.
Before coming to Lincoln, Despain had served in the Fire Departments in Clovis and Fresno, California. He has a bachelor's degree in Management and Organizational Development from Fresno Pacific College and a master's degree in Human Resource Management from National University in Fresno. He also is a graduate of the National Fire Academy's Executive Fire Officer Program.
Upon his retirement 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Baird thanked Despain for his work to maintain one of the best cardiac survival rates in the nation; to replace 13 outdated fire apparatus; to implement the fire station relocation plan; and to improve response times.
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. 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.