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Columbia has selected its next fire chief following the retirement of Clayton Farr Jr. in April.

Brian Schaeffer, previously deputy fire chief and fire chief of the Spokane, Washington, Fire Department from 2005 to 2024, was appointed chief of the city’s fire department by Columbia City Manager De’Carlon Seewood on Thursday. Schaeffer will begin his job on Aug. 19.

“Brian brings invaluable experience to this role,” said Seewood. “He has demonstrated his ability to proactively set priorities and commit to the quality of service the Columbia Fire Department continually strives to achieve.”

Unlike previous national searches for a city leadership position, the work was done internally and no outside recruiter was brought in, Columbia Human Resources Director Kathy Baker said last month.

Schaeffer’s hiring bucks a recent trend of hiring internal candidates that included the chief of the Columbia Police Department, the chief of the Columbia Fire Department when Farr was selected, the director of public works, the director of IT, an assistant city manager (before November 2023), the director of parks and recreation and the director of human resources. The trend also continues with Matt Unrein, who was hired as an outside assistant to the city manager in February and was promoted to deputy city manager in April.

“I am excited to begin this new role in an exceptional community like Columbia,” said Schaeffer. “The Columbia Fire Department is committed to providing the best service to its community. I am honored to continue to uphold these values ​​and help find innovative ways to protect the health of our residents and firefighters.”

At a meet-and-greet last month, Schaeffer outlined his priorities if selected.

He described a unique tool he might also like to see introduced in Columbia: an AI-driven firefighting analytics program called Darkhorse Emergency, which was introduced in Spokane.

“It’s a dispatch tool that allows you to take data from years ago. … It’s collecting response time data,” Schaeffer said last month, adding that this includes where personnel go, how long it took them to get there and what happened on the scene. “The AI ​​will take that information and use similar information to what Waze does – all the traffic patterns – and make predictions based on future changes.”

However, his first focus will be on recruitment, retention, training and resource management, he said.

Although Schaeffer lives in Washington, he has ties to the Central Missouri region.

“I studied at the University of Central Missouri and the University of Missouri at Kansas City. I’ve always had a connection to the whole region and to Columbia. This Midwest is really my home,” he said in June. “The community is on the verge of something great and I want to be a part of it.”

Previously: Columbia will soon have a new fire chief. Here are the top priorities of the 4 finalists

NOTE: Parts of this story have been published previously.

Charles Dunlap covers local politics, community stories and other general issues for the Tribune. Reach him at [email protected] or @CD_CDT on X, formerly Twitter. Subscribe to support important local journalism.