By Ann Fowler
Jeffrey J. Wittig, who has been part of the Oak Hill Fire Department (OHFD) for more than 15 years, was appointed Fire Chief by the Travis County Emergency Services District #3 (TCESD #3) board of commissioners effective January 23. He has served as Acting Fire Chief since November 2011.
Born in Victoria, Texas, Chief Wittig’s family moved to Oak Hill in 1978. He earned the rank of Eagle Scout while in Oak Hill Troop 395. He was a freshman at Bowie High School when it first opened in 1988, and his class of 1992 was the first four-year class to graduate from Bowie.
Chief Wittig originally had a different career in mind: “I had intended to be a school counselor, but after sitting in traffic when the old Texaco station on 290 blew up, and then watching Oak Hill fire units block 290 for STARFlight to land, I knew I really wanted to be a part of helping others in the community.”
He found the chance to help the community after earning a degree in Psychology from the University of Texas. During the ten years Chief Wittig spent working in procurement and management at UT, he became a volunteer firefighter with OHFD. As a volunteer, he participated in Oak Hill’s fire training program. He was promoted to firefighter, firefighter II, lieutenant, and captain. He became part of the full-time staff in 2005 at the rank of Fire Captain.
Chief Wittig received an MBA from the University of Phoenix in 2005. He said, “After earning my MBA, an opportunity to work for the Department presented itself and it felt like the right decision for me and my family. Getting to work in the emergency services field in the area where I grew up and still live is great.”
A year later, he was promoted to Assistant Fire Chief, assuming full management responsibilities of the department’s administration. As Oak Hill has grown, so has its fire department. Chief Wittig said: “Fire service needs in the Oak Hill area have changed drastically over the 16 years I’ve spent with the Department. We went from an all-volunteer organization with trucks stationed at officers’ homes to a combination paid and volunteer organization with two excellent stations, state of the art equipment, and training that is well known throughout the region for its successes.”
The Oak Hill Fire Academy allows cadets seeking firefighting careers to train in the evenings and on weekends in the year-long program. Said Chief Wittig, “The leadership in the fire Academy is second to none and places emphasis on delivering high quality training.” The Academy’s ninth class began on January 28.
Chief Wittig described the services provided by OHFD: “Our department provides a vast array of services, including fire, enhanced medical responses with EMT-Intermediate level trained personnel on every truck, Hazardous Materials response, advanced training for new construction methods and new challenges with materials inside homes, and prevention efforts that strive to prevent emergencies before they occur — the area where we can be most effective.”
OHFD services are constantly evaluated, according to the chief. He said, “The department will continue to evaluate its options to better secure the great services our community enjoys now for the future. We will be looking at working closely with other departments to help make sure that emergency services in our area will continue on during periods of economic difficulty or annexation by the City of Austin.”
OHFD has a staff of 32 and is overseen by the commissioners of TCESD #3, who are appointed by the Travis County Commissioners Court. Chief Wittig said, “Commissioners volunteer their time and strive to serve the community, so our emergency services personnel are well trained, well equipped, and ready to respond.”
He added, “The Board of Commissioners remains very committed to ensuring that services for our community remain at the high level they are offered now as well as taking care of the workforce so that continuity of the department doesn’t suffer.”
Chief Wittig is particularly proud of the way TCESD #3 manages the funds that provides emergency services. He explained, “This year in our annual audit performed by a third party auditor, we were informed that they consider TCESD #3 as a leader in how government accounting should be done; they use our department as a model when speaking to other clients about how to properly account for their funds in the governmental setting. This speaks volumes to the dedication and professionalism the Commissioners and administrative staff bring to the department to help maintain an effective government structure for our citizens.”
Chief Wittig received the Chief Fire Officer Designation from the Center for Public Safety Excellence. In addition, he completed the Texas Fire Chiefs Academy by the Texas Fire Chiefs Association and is enrolled in the National Fire Academy’s four year Executive Fire Officer Program. Chief Wittig holds certifications for Advanced Firefighter, Fire Officer II, and Fire Instructor II for the Texas Commission on Fire Protection; Emergency Medical Technician-Basic from the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians and the Texas Department of State Health Services; Juvenile Firesetter Intervention Specialist II from the Texas Fire Marshal’s Office; Fire Officer IV from the Texas Fire Chief’s Association; Incident Safety Officer from the National Fire Academy; and Communications Unit Leader from the Department of Homeland Security.
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