Image by Austin Fire Department via Flickr

In honor of September 11, we wanted to take a moment and thank all of the brave and hardworking first responders who work tirelessly to keep our city and its residents safe every day of the year.

This year, we wanted to spotlight the Austin Fire Department and their unique role in our community. They don’t just respond to emergencies — they also work closely with other first responders and city departments to keep Austinites and visitors safe during large-scale events.

We were fortunate enough to ask Austin’s new Fire Chief Joel G. Baker some questions about his role and the work he and his department have done since he joined the department last year. Thank you again to Chief Baker and Public Information Officer Michelle Tanzola for working with us on this interview!

Chief Baker, how are you enjoying working in Austin so far?
Fire Chief Joel G. Baker: I’m really enjoying it! This is a great town and a fantastic department. Everyone has made me feel very welcome, so I feel blessed to be here.

Can you tell us about some of the special events you’ve worked, like holiday shopping runs for local charities?
Baker: The Austin Fire Department has a very active community engagement focus where we participate in or host lots of different kinds of events to “break down” the walls between those of us in public safety and the citizens we serve. Our members are very involved in a whole host of community engagement activities and enjoy doing so.

How does the fire department work to keep Austin safe during city-wide events, from the Fourth of July to South By Southwest (SXSW)?
Baker: We are intimately involved in all of the pre-planning, alongside our partners at the Austin Police Department and Austin/Travis County EMS. But besides the obvious safety aspects, many of our members are working behind the scenes. For example, the Fire Marshal’s Office spends a great deal of time before and during these large-scale events to ensure all of the venues are doing everything they need to do to ensure their patrons have a good time in a safe environment. There are a lot of moving pieces in these sorts of events, so everyone has to do their part—including citizens and visitors!—for things to go smoothly.

Thank you again to Chief Baker, the Austin Fire Department, and all of our first responders. Without you, Austin wouldn’t be the great city that it is!