Crider would replace Sam Heaton, whom commissioners elevated to public safety director in January.
The Cobb Fire Department has a fiscal 2014 budget of $70.6 million, with 652 firefighting and 27 civilian positions, spokesman Robert Quigley said.
Crider, who has served as deputy fire chief since 2006, was born in Douglasville and grew up in Powder Springs, graduating from McEachern High School in 1980.
Crider’s older brother, Steve, was a firefighter with the Cobb Fire Department. His brother’s example motivated Crider at age 19 to sign up with the Douglasville Fire Department.
“Back in those days, they would let high school classes build their homecoming floats in the bays of fire stations, and our senior class built our float in the bay of the fire station that he worked in, and it was just intriguing to me, you know?” Crider said.
His brother retired as a captain with the Cobb Fire Department in 2010 and lives in west Cobb.
“I’ve seen a lot of things I wish I’d never seen to be honest with you,” Crider said of his experience fighting fires.
One of the scariest situations he remembers was in the mid-1980s in Douglasville when a flashover occurred in a house he was trying to save. Fortunately, he was down on his hands and knees when it occurred.
“You don’t ever stand up or raise up in a situation where there’s that much heat in there because your gear won’t even survive that kind of heat,” he said.
The homeowners were safely rescued and the fire eventually extinguished, but the ferocity of the flames that roared above him remains stamped in his memory.
Crider has been in fire service long
enough to see a number of changes. As a young firefighter, the breathing apparatus was still optional. He called air packs probably the single item that most revolutionized his field.
“You can’t stay in there and breathe that smoke,” he said. “With an air pack on you can stay in there, work 20, 30 minutes and breathe that bottle dry and go out and get you another bottle.”
Another change is the use of thermal-imaging cameras that use infrared radiation to determine where the heat is.
“That technology is awesome,” he said. “You can put one of those things on a 55 gallon drum and you can tell where the fluid level is inside that drum. That’s used for Hazmat calls and things like that.”
Crider said one of the challenges he will face if appointed fire chief is in the area of succession.
“We’ve got every one of our chief officers have less than five years before they can retire,” he said. “And so my concern is are we going to have people prepared, and that’s going to be my goal is to prepare people at lower ranked positions to be there when we leave.”
Crider believes the culture of the Cobb Fire Department is excellent and one he intends to maintain.
Another challenge is to be fully staffed by the end of the year. The department now has about 34 openings with another four people retiring at the end of the month.
“So we hope to start our last recruit school this May, and if it’s going to be somewhere between 35 and 40 that would get us fully staffed by the time they got out of recruit school at the end of the year,” he said.
Crider’s new salary has yet to be determined. His predecessor, Heaton, received a salary of $124,983 as fire chief before taking his new position where he receives $142,337, Quigley said.
The deputy chief said he wanted to make it clear he didn’t have the job until the Board of Commissioners approved it Tuesday. When he met with Hankerson about the promotion, he showed up in his Class A uniform. When Hankerson observed how well dressed he looked, “I said, ‘Yes sir, Mr. Hankerson. I’ve learned that I don’t take anything for granted, even life, you know what I mean?’”
Hankerson said Heaton left a solid fire department in place and it would be Crider’s job to maintain that quality by keeping the insurance rating and working on response times.
“I like that he took the initiative, so he worked in all facets of the operation,” Hankerson said. “He’s paid his dues and been in fire service most of his life.”
The Randy Crider file
* Job: Cobb Deputy Fire Chief
* Age: 51
* Family: Wife, Cherie; three children, two stepchildren
* Residence: Powder Springs
* Education: Associate degree, fire science technology, Chattahoochee Technical College, B.A. in organizational leadership and management, Reinhardt University, pursuing MBA at Reinhardt
* Church: Mt. Harmony Baptist Church in Mableton