Continuing our series on newly appointed County Department Directors, reflecting the role of government in responding to community values and needs.
The son of a retired corrections officer and preschool teacher, Maui County Fire Chief Jeff Murray is living a lifelong dream to serve his community in a very special way. “I love my job,” Murray said. In his position, Murray leads a staff of 300 uniformed firefighters and 12 civilians and oversees a budget of $29 million. A 1983 graduate of Maui High School, Murray began his career as a firefighter when he enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1984 and served in places like Texas, Illinois, South Korea and Honolulu. He returned home in 1989 and has since worked in practically every fire station on Maui. Murray is married, has four children and enjoys surfing, diving, fishing and baseball.
He brings to work a number of values instilled in him while growing up on Maui. These include integrity, compassion, professionalism and a sense of community. Murray said he prefers to seek input from staff before making decisions. “I like to look at things from all aspects. For the most part, I like to have as much participation as possible.” But as a leader when he’s pressed, he’s not afraid to trust his experience and instincts and make timely decisions on his own.
Murray says the best thing that residents can do to assist firefighters and other emergency responders is to post visible signage on their homes and provide clear and specific directions to their addresses. He said he’s not aware of a situation when a delayed response caused major damage or any loss of life. “We shouldn’t have to wait for a situation like that. We always want to be proactive.”
The Maui County Fire Department responds to a range of calls from fires to ocean and mountain rescues to the safe containment of hazardous materials. Firefighters are also dedicated to educating the community about fire safety. They conduct regular safety briefings with private companies and they reach thousands of school-aged children every year with fire station visits and Fire Prevention Week activities.