After two decades that included some dangerous rescues, Chris Coons is taking on another high-pressure job: the fire chief of Johns Creek.
The city announced Wednesday that Coons, a 46-year-old Lawrenceville native, would take over the role. He had been the interim fire chief since January when Jeff Hogan left for the state fire marshal role.
“I’m not one of those that always wanted to be a firefighter,” Coons told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
He said his uncle was a Milledgeville firefighter and encouraged him at a family function to join up, and two months later he did.
Coons spent just under 16 years at the Atlanta Fire Department, part of which he spent on a specialized rescue unit.
He recalled one harrowing call in April 1999 when a man was trapped atop a crane 250 feet in the air as five-story flames engulfed a historic mill being renovated into Cabbagetown apartments.
Another firefighter rescued the man by dangling 80 feet from a helicopter and “I was the last guy to put a carabiner on him as he took off,” Coons said.
He said he wanted to slow down that pace and be around more for his daughter, so he moved to the administrative side.
Coons joined Johns Creek as a captain when it formed a fire department in 2008.
He is the third fire chief in the department’s 12-year history, said City Manager Warren Hutmacher. His pay will be $116,000 a year.
Coons said one of the first priorities for the agency, which has an annual budget of about $11 million, will be “to run a little bit leaner on the financial side. That won’t involve reducing the staff total of the 88 employees, but instead it might change how many units respond to certain calls.
“They can expect the exceptional that they’re already receiving to be built on,” he said.
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