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Search for new Buffalo fire commissioner expected to be competitive

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Buffalo Mayor Byron Brown says it will be at least a month before a formal search process starts to replace Fire Commissioner Garnell Whitfield, who retired last week citing family obligations and health issues. The mayor says he expects much competition for the position since the new commissioner will inherit a department with completely new equipment and new fire houses. It's also a department that is much younger than in past generations.

Brown says there will be national advertising to fill the job.

"We will put the information out regionally and nationally," Brown told WBFO. "We have excellent people right here locally that currently work in the Buffalo Fire Department."

The mayor says Buffalo Fire is a well-trained, modern department, experienced in both traditional wood frame house fires as well as the increasing number of higher structures in newer developments. He says he believes the job will be attractive to applicants, given that the city has recently replaced all of its firefighting vehicles, a $20 million expenditure.

Whitfield announced his retirement last week, effective last Friday. The 60-year-old had been fire commissioner since 2010.

The new commissioner will eventually move into the city's new Public Safety Building along with the Buffalo Police Department at the former federal courthouse on Niagara Square. Renovation work on the campus is currently ramping up.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.