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New W.V. fire chief brings impressive credentials to post

SHARE New W.V. fire chief brings impressive credentials to post

When Van Summers left the West Valley City Fire Department 17 years ago, he departed with a sense of frustration and disappointment.

"I never thought I would have an opportunity to come back," said the 52-year-old career firefighter from Phoenix.But that disappointment has been replaced by a challenging new appointment - as West Valley's new fire chief.

City Manager John Patterson announced Tuesday that Summers has been hired and will assume the city's top fire post July 20.

He replaces former fire chief W. John Williams, who resigned his position in March amid allegations that he had sexually harassed a female city employee.

"We're fortunate to have somebody of Van's caliber come on board," Patterson said. "He comes to us from one of the finest departments in the nation.

"He's very competent, has great experience and is highly regarded within his profession," he added. "Van is the man we need to lead us to a higher level of fire service in West Valley."

Summers served 22 years with the Phoenix Fire Department, including five years as one of 12 deputy fire chiefs in a department with some 1,300 firefighters and 56 fire stations.

That service was interrupted for about a year in 1980 when he took a position as division chief in charge of training and shift commander with the then-fledgling West Valley fire department.

But political in-fighting in the newly formed city and concerns over long-term job stability prompted Summers to return to Phoenix, where he rose to positions of increasing responsibility over the years.

Now he says he's returning to a department that has made huge strides over the past 17 years, expanding to 63 firefighters and three fire stations with a fourth now under construction.

"A lot of sweat and tears have been invested in getting the West Valley Fire Department to where it's at today," he said. "I applaud the individuals who have been responsible for that."

A native of Vallejo, Calif., Summers was the son of a U.S. Navy officer and grew up in Norfolk, Va. He earned an associate degree in fire science from Phoenix College and a bachelor's degree in history from Arizona State University.

His extensive experience includes a stint as one of five district commanders in Phoenix, where Summer managed a dozen fire stations and 150 firefighters.

He was then appointed a division chief and managed a variety of fire service activities including inspection of new construction, fire prevention, hazardous materials inspection and direction of the department's training academy.

As deputy chief, Summers managed the department's safety section, a special operations section over hazardous materials, its specialized rescue teams and its health and fitness section.