By Hannah Lester
Fire and rescue wasn’t always the plan for Opelika’s newest fire chief, Shane Boyd. In fact, when he was young, he wanted to be a police officer.
“At that time, when you got out of school, you couldn’t be a police officer until you were 21,” Boyd said. “When I graduated, I was 17, so, years of waiting. I had time to fill. I started working various jobs with roads and transportation, or at a steel mill, and eventually the police officers I talked to, said, ‘you need to go talk to some people at the fire department.’”
Boyd started in the fire department as a volunteer, but didn’t take long before he was looking for something more.
“I’m kind of full bore when I get into something,” he said. “I never anticipated sitting in a chief’s office, I don’t even know if I desired to for the first twenty years.”
But, he did want to be a full-time fire fighter.
“I worked in every promotable position in the department,” he said. Boyd started as a firefighter, then once he had his paramedic license, he started work on the rescue truck, then apparatus operator, sergeant.
From there, the ranks proceed to lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, deputy chief and fire chief.
“Obviously the competition gets a lot harder at every level,” Boyd said.
Although Boyd didn’t see himself as fire chief when he began his career — that is nonetheless the seat he finds himself in now.
Boyd left home, and a bigger city behind, when he accepted the role as Opelika Fire Chief and started April 1.
“I look at this role as a facilitator more than anything else,” he said. “Like I told them, I studied leadership a lot when I was coming through the ranks and I’m a big proponent of servant leadership.”
The chief also wants his team to know he trusts them to do their job.
“The job in the fire service, a lot of times, is as simple as, be there fast, be nice and fix the problem,” Boyd said.
But — the job has changed. Over the years, the amount of fires has gone down, Boyd said.
So the fire department, and not just Opelika’s, has adapted.
“Anything you don’t know who to call for, typically falls on the fire department,” Boyd said. “Be it, a guy off a cliff, that’s not fire, that’s technical rescue. Guy hanging off the side of a building, who do you call? … I think it’s like 92% of the time, nothing’s on fire.”
The role Boyd fills allows him to help train, and mentor, the men and women of the Opelika Fire Department.
“Being able to empower your guys and watching a guy grow in his career … that’s the most rewarding thing you can see,” he said.
Boyd did not grow up in Opelika like many of the fire fighters in the department. He was an outside hire. And not only that — but Boyd wasn’t looking for a new job.
“I talked to [the recruiter who contacted Boyd] for a little bit and said, ‘I really don’t know.’ And she said, ‘Well I really think you should look at it. This is a very well-ran city.’ And that kind of resonated with me.”
Boyd had been in the Bessemer Fire Department and decided to interview with Opelika.
“With the amount of growing Opelika and Auburn areas are doing, we know the fire department’s got to grow,” he said. “And to do that, you have to kind of have the vision to know how we’re going to expand and be able to encapsulate what this fire department’s going to manage 20 years from now.”
One way Boyd said he sees the fire department could improve is through social media.
“We’ve got really good people, we should want them to be seen,” he said.
While Opelika may have been a transition from the Birmingham area, “they’re the most friendly people I’ve ever seen in my life,” Boyd said.