COPPERAS COVE — The city named its fire chief finalist after about 10 months without anyone in the top fire department administrative position.
City Manager Andrea Gardner confirmed Monday that South Padre Island’s Fire Chief Burney Baskett is the city’s top choice. The position will not be officially filled until a full background check is completed.
“There is no one in the city happier about the possibility of having the chief position filled, but I must look out for the best interest of the city first,” Gardner said in an email, noting that she was not going to release additional information on the hire until the check was completed.
The city has been without a fire chief since Sean Hughes left the department in October 2012 after nearly six months of service. Hughes replaced Mike Baker, who retired from the department in February 2012.
Baskett said Monday he has spent 32 years in fire service. For 22 years he worked with the Arlington Fire Department before leaving and becoming the Hillsboro fire chief for six years. He then took the South Padre Island chief position, where he has served for five years.
South Padre Island has a population of 5,000, but being a tourist destination, the island experiences a service population of more than 80,000 people at numerous times of the year, Baskett said.
To serve the city’s fire protection needs, Baskett directs 24 full-time firefighters and the emergency medical service.
Copperas Cove’s fire department has 44 full-time firefighters and emergency medical service personnel. It serves about 50,000 residents in Coryell, Lampasas, and Bell counties.
The move to Copperas Cove is not just for professional reasons, Baskett said. Another reason involves his children.
“They all moved to Central Texas, so it is a lot closer to family,” he said.
Baskett will finish out the rest of the month in South Padre and hopes to begin his new job by July 15.
The city will host a badge ceremony for Baskett on July 15, Deputy Fire Chief Gary Young told Coryell County commissioners on Monday.