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Chief of Department Introduction

Warmest greetings! I wanted to briefly introduce myself. I've been actively involved in the fire service since 1997, but my roots go a little deeper. My grandfather and uncles were all fire chiefs in the Southern Tier in New York. From a young age I was introduced to the fire service and all of its traditions. I remember playing on fire trucks and responding with my uncles to fires. I responded with my Uncle Johnny to a car fire and I remember being absolutely enamored with everything that he and his crew were doing. The fire service is a calling and at the young age of 16 I answered the call and joined the volunteer ranks of the Liverpool Fire Department in Liverpool, New York.

In 2001 I attended Champlain College and received a Bachelors of Science in Computer Networking. After a little over a year in the IT industry I decided that I hadn't followed my true calling. I shifted my focus and in 2008 I was honored to be hired by the South Burlington Fire Department. I spent 8 years working for the city and in that time I furthered my career by training in technical rescue, achieving my paramedic license, and getting my fire officer certifications. I was also honored to be one of the first members of Vermont USAR Task Force 1 in 2015.

Then, in 2016, something tragic happened: I got married to a naval officer. My wife, Dani, was to be stationed at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Portsmouth, Virginia and work as an anesthesiologist. What was initially worrisome (I had to quit my beloved fire service!) turned into one of the most fantastic things to have happened to me. We spent 4 years in the Virginia Beach area. In that time we had 2 wonderful children (Wyatt and Naomi), and I got to continue working in the fire service for the City of Suffolk, Virginia. There I was stationed at Station 1, Engine 2 as part of their two piece heavy rescue unit. Getting a new perspective on the fire service and getting to use different equipment in a different region was a truly wonderful experience.

In addition to a new perspective, I was introduced to a variety of new leaders and leadership styles. I worked for several battalion chiefs who embodied everything a solid leader should. They were very mission focused. They were driven to train. They were incredibly focused on their staff and would do anything for their crews. After working in some firehouses with declining morale, it was an eye opener to see what true leadership could be like. Leaders can, and should, play a key function in maintaining happy and healthy crews.

As such, when I heard about the opening for Charlotte's Chief of Department I got very interested. I knew this was the next direction my career had to take. I am very pleased and very excited to be able to work with each and every one of you. I know together we can make Charlotte the envy of Chittenden County departments and a fantastic place to work. I can't wait to meet you all over the coming weeks and hear your thoughts and ideas for a new direction.


-Justin Bliss

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