Commission may make decision on fire chief

Former Naugatuck Fire Chief Ken Hanks, right, applauds after Deputy Chief Ellen Murray, left, was named interim fire chief by the Board of Fire Commissioners last year. The commission will discuss and possibly vote on whether to hire interim Chief Ellen Murray to the chief's position full time Wednesday night. –FILE PHOTO

Former Naugatuck Fire Chief Ken Hanks, right, applauds after Deputy Chief Ellen Murray, left, was named interim fire chief by the Board of Fire Commissioners last year. The commission will discuss and possibly vote on whether to hire interim Chief Ellen Murray to the chief’s position full time Wednesday night. –FILE PHOTO

NAUGATUCK — The borough may soon hire the first female fire chief in the Naugatuck Fire Department’s 128-year history.

On Wednesday night, the Board of Fire Commissioners will discuss and possibly vote on whether to hire interim Chief Ellen Murray to the chief’s position full time.

Murray, 57, of Shelton, who was hired in 2011 as deputy chief, took over as interim chief in August when former Chief Ken Hanks retired. She is interested in the position full time.

The commission will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Naugatuck Fire Department’s headquarters at 41 Maple St. The agenda states discussion and possible action on the chief’s position. As of Sunday night, it was still not confirmed that a vote would occur.

Commission Chairman John Ford said the group would look to hire a new deputy chief if Murray were to become chief. He would not say whether he thought she will get the job.

“She’s done very well as far as formulating the budget and very well as far as her administrative abilities,” he said. “We’re going to discuss whether to hire her or whether to go outside and look around.”

The borough has not yet advertised for the job, nor has it asked for applications. Those within the department close to the situation say no other department members are interested in the job.

Mayor N. Warren “Pete” Hess said he is in favor of the commission offering Murray the job.

“I have worked with her over the past four months, and I’m very happy with her performance and the manner in which she is running the department,” he said.

Murray would not comment about the position Sunday, saying she didn’t want to interfere with the hiring process.

The department, meanwhile, has to fill four other positions in the department, which typically operates with 43 members — 32 of them are line firefighters. The department is dealing with how to replace recent retirees, firefighter Sean Reilly and Capt. Vin Healy.

“We had a certified list and have a few people left who HR is going to make contact with,” Murray said.

Ford said the department is running up overtime costs because it is contractually bound to have eight firefighters on each shift and does not have enough firefighters to do that without giving overtime.

“Personally, I don’t think that eight firefighters on a shift is enough,” he said. “The recent condo fire (that destroyed five units on Feb. 13) is a great example of why: The first firefighters on scene were physically wiped out within 10 minutes. We do have mutual aid, but what happens if they have an emergency in their own town? So at the very least, we need to fill the positions that are vacant.”