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‘Built me to be a fireman’

Chris Collins, Anniston’s new fire chief, has plans for training

Chris Collins

Anniston's new Fire Chief Chris Collins at their newest station #3 in Lenlock. (Stephen Gross / The Anniston Star)

Twenty-year Anniston Fire Department veteran Chris Collins is the department's new fire chief, the city announced Tuesday.

Collins, along with Assistant Chief Ray Thompson, had served as interim fire chief since his predecessor, Tony Taylor, retired in January.

Collins, 45, stood next to a fire engine inside the department’s new station on McClellan Boulevard on Tuesday and talked about his plans for the department’s future and his love for the job.

“After my very first house fire there was no doubt that God had built me to be a fireman,”  Collins said. “I was hooked, and from that day to this, I’ve always wanted to know more, learn more, be better.”

Collins is a 1990 graduate of Saks High School and was hired as an Anniston  firefighter in 1996. He was promoted to assistant chief in 2013 and lives in Alexandria with his wife, Teresa, and children Ashleigh, David, Madison and Will.

As chief of the six-station department Collins will no longer regularly respond to fire calls. That’s the duty of the firefighters he’s now responsible for, he said, and they’re plenty capable, but “I’ll absolutely miss it.”

Collins has a vision to grow the department’s training programs into different directions, he said. Anniston Fire Department is a certified regional training site, an extension of the Tuscaloosa-based Alabama Fire College, and teaches classes for local high school students looking to pre-qualify as firefighters.

Anniston Fire Marshal Jeff Waldrep is also fire investigations program director for the Alabama Fire College, Collins said, “so we’ve got a lot of big plans for some expansion in that area too.”

Taylor, speaking by phone Tuesday, said he was excited to learn that Collins would lead the department.  

“He’s worked hard for a long time. Extremely dedicated,” Taylor said.

Collins is president of the East Central Alabama Training Association and is an instructor with the Alabama Fire College.

Taylor said Anniston is getting a chief who can “see the bigger picture’” and will lead the department in a positive direction.

“He’s got a servant’s heart, and that’s what you need to do the job,” Taylor said.

Collins said he’s guided by his faith, his love for his family and for his work.

“I honestly love this job,” Collins said. “This is what I love doing.”

Staff writer Eddie Burkhalter: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @Burkhalter_Star.