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La Crosse’s new fire chief begins today with plenty on plate



Report states city fire facilities need $27 million in improvements, repairs.

It’s the first day on the job for Ken Gilliam, who was the unanimous selection by La Crosse’s police and fire commission to replace retiring fire chief Gregg Cleveland.

Gilliam, formerly a deputy chief in St. Paul, Minn., has talked about his emphasis on training and local union leadership welcomes that attitude, noting that the department already does extensive training in a variety of fields.

Gilliam is arriving at the same time the city creates a task force to explore ways to address what’s been identified in a report as $27 million in needed repairs and improvements at the department’s current facilities.

The same task force will likely also consider adding a new fire station on the city’s south side. The city currently has four fire stations, the newest of which are 50 years old. 

Leadership in the city fire has also expressed the need to deal with recruitment and retention in a department that has struggled at times with understaffing.  

Gilliam is also a former associate dean of fire and EMS training at Wisconsin Indianhead Technical College.

Cleveland retires at the end of the month.

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