The Seward Phoenix Log - News of the Eastern Kenai Peninsula since 1966

By Wolfgang Kurtz
LOG Editor 

Mathis back for seconds at SFD


Wolfgang Kurtz | The Seward Phoenix LOG

Seward Fire Department’s new Deputy Fire Chief Rob Mathis is back on the job after a 12-year absence from the Seward area. Mathis joined up with the SFD in 1994 as a volunteer and was hired on as Deputy Fire Chief in 1999 for a two-year engagement.

When Rob Mathis came back to the Seward Fire Department, he came back all the way. He visited a couple times recently with wife Heather, who took one look at Seward and said she could live here. So when the position of Seward Fire Department Chief was advertised, he lined up that job interview. However the then current Deputy Fire Chief Eddie Athey got the nod for the big chair. Mathis, a past Seward Fire Department Volunteer Chief and Deputy Fire Chief, then took a shot at, arguably, the next best job in the SFD.

With a resume steeped in an almost lifelong involvement in volunteer and professional fire fighting, it wasn’t much of a stretch moving from a firefighter and EMT position at the United States Coast Guard base on Kodiak back to a job he held from 1999 to 2001, working for David Squires, the former SFD Chief. As a matter of fact, it was no stretch at all. Mathis got his start with SFD as a volunteer back in 1994, after starting work at Spring Creek Correctional Center as a correctional officer. He covered both bases, working his way up to volunteer fire chief, until he quit SCCC and turned professional firefighter in 1999.

That was all after longtime fire fighting experience during his enlistment with the Air Force and subsequent employment with the Alaska Air National Guard at Kulis AANG base in Anchorage. Mathis became a medic nearly straight out of high school and started racking up the hours as an fire department volunteer in his off-duty time. He also spent some of his early years stationed in Germany and elsewhere, working military security. However, among the places he visited and those he’d like to go back to, Seward ended up being the one.

Both current chief Athey and Mathis are Emergency Medical Technician III’s and Mathis is working to get his building code certifications down so that the fire department will have seamless backup at the management level. Differences in the guidebooks for fire and building codes between the federal and local fire fighting ranks are minute and typically inconsequential, but with new building and fire codes in the process of adoption by the City of Seward, the entire staff has been getting an education. And, as Mathis says, he’s working on backstopping Athey’s priorities in every way possible as the SFD went through a major transition this month with the retirement of Squires.

Mathis is also getting up to speed with the equipment and personnel changes that took place in his absence. The new No. 4 fire engine, acquired in February, is just the largest piece of new gear SFD has picked up recently. He says it’s definitely an advantage having held the deputy chief position before, along with his volunteer background in the SFD. Mathis points out that he remembers driving the next oldest fire truck, No. 1, to Seward from Anchorage back in the day, fresh off the boat.

He’s becoming better acquainted with the faces new to him on the volunteer roster, and he and his wife are getting familiar in the community at large. Coming back on board July 1 and juggling buying a new house with selling another on Kodiak has kept things interesting, but Mathis keeps looking forward to getting out into some of the area back country he remembers. His three Old English Bulldogs may be enjoying their new fenced yard, but Mathis wants to get some hunting and 4 wheeling done before winter sets in and it’s time to break out the snow machines.


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