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Peninsula Township Fire Department | Jane Boursaw Photo

At a special meeting of the Peninsula Township Board tonight, the board voted to hire Fred Gilstorff as the new Fire Chief of the Peninsula Fire Department.

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Fred Gilstorff, New Fire Chief for the Peninsula Fire Department

Following weeks of interviews and meetings, the field had narrowed to two candidates – Gilstorff and Randy Rittenhouse, who has been the Interim Fire Chief for the past few years.

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After final interviews at the meeting tonight, as well as presentations by both candidates, the Board deliberated in an open meeting and then voted by secret ballot, resulting in five votes for Gilstorff and two for Rittenhouse.

Gilstorff previously held the position of Deputy Chief with the Wayne Fire Department in Wayne, Michigan. He began working there in 1994 and helped to shepherd the department through many changes during those years.

During his presentation to the Township Board, he outlined goals for fire protection, fire prevention, public education and emergency medical services. Gilstorff stressed that he has a drive and passion for fire and emergency services, and that as fire chief, his main responsibility is to “give firefighters the tools to accomplish the job.”

He also plans to expand public education by giving school presentations, offering CPR and other safety classes, getting involved with the community, and hosting open houses at the fire department. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be in the community all the time,” he said. “We need to promote ourselves. We need to be out in the community showing what we can do.”

He said one of his first tasks is to become acclimated to the Old Mission Peninsula and learn the territory and geography of the land. “If I don’t know what’s here, I can’t protect it,” he said, adding, “You have some beautiful homes, but you also have some great challenges when it comes to firefighting.”

Other goals outlined in his presentation include hiring more staff, ideally an additional six full-time staffers and one paid on-call person. He would also like the fire department to be more involved with new construction in the township, reviewing building plans and assessing them for fire safety issues, as modern construction materials burn fast, he noted.

When asked whether he’s a self-starter, Gilstorff noted, “I’m very much a go getter. I’m a hard worker. I like to get my hands dirty. I may be the one responsible for making the decisions, but I’m still a firefighter.”

He has already connected with Chief Jim Tuller of the Traverse City Fire Department, as they work closely with the Peninsula Fire Department on calls.

During his tenure with the Wayne Fire Department, Gilstorff raised funds and solicited donations from local businesses to buy necessary equipment for the department, including the Jaws of Life, a.k.a. hydraulic rescue tools.

“I’m excited at the opportunity to share my experience and to share my knowledge,” said Gilstorff of his new role in Peninsula Township.

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