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Experience was a key element for the East Greenwich Fire District Board of Commissioners in choosing Russell McGillivray as their new deputy chief.
â€śHe brings experience we havenâ€™t had here before,â€ť said Chief Peter F. Henrikson.
And heâ€™s not just talking about McGillivrayâ€™s 21-year career in the West Warwick Fire Department, including the last three as a battalion chief.
McGillivray has not only put out plenty of fires in his lifetime, but also spent some time under fire in Iraq during an 16-month deployment in the Army Reserve as a sergeant first class, managing the emergency room for enlisted personnel.
â€śIn Mosul, we were shot at every day. Being near an airfield in the middle of the city, we were at the front door of everything,â€ť he said.
McGillivray was later assigned to Al Asad, a remote outpost in Anbar Province, where some of the warâ€™s heaviest fighting took place.
â€śWe were taking in a lot of casualties,â€ť he said of the trailer hospital he was stationed at before returning home in October 2007.
The worst nightmare he faced, however, came at home eight years this week: The Station fire, in which 100 clubgoers died after on-stage pyrotechnics ignited flammable materials along the walls and ceiling.
â€śI was a captain, and was called to respond from home. I got there a half-hour after it started, and was helping pull live victims out of there. A lot of us just stayed on into the day shift the next day. That was probably my worst night as a firefighter,â€ť he said.
His smile returned, though, when talking about his favorite professional memory.
â€śI once delivered a baby on a kitchen floor. The mom felt the pains, called, and we figured we had time to get to the hospital, but she had it right there,â€ť said McGillivray, who decided at age 12 to pursue a career in firefighting.
A West Warwick native, he graduated from West Warwick High School in 1984. He then earned his associateâ€™s degree at Community College of Rhode Island and bachelorâ€™s degree at Providence College, both in fire science. He lives in Coventry with his wife Beverly and five children.
McGillivray began work in East Greenwich Feb. 7, filling a deputy chiefâ€™s chair that had been vacant since last spring, when former chief John McKenna retired and Henrikson, then his deputy, was named acting chief. Following Henriksonâ€™s promotion to permanent chief in November, the commissioners set out to fill the deputy chiefâ€™s position. Nineteen candidates applied, and seven were interviewed, said Henrikson.
As deputy, McGillivray will be responsible for the departmentâ€™s day-to-day operations and manage emergency medical services, training, rescue billing and grant writing.
â€śItâ€™s definitely a more administrative role than I had in West Warwick, where I was running a shift. Now I have to blend the hands-on experience with administration,â€ť he said.
McGillivray plans to emphasize fire safety as the largest part of his training duties. â€śThese guys do a tremendous amount of training already,â€ť he said.