By Leigh Armstrong

Joe Rau is Skagway’s new full-time paid fire chief and was appointed by the borough assembly in a special meeting on April 10.

After making the decision to hire a new paid fire chief during the March 7 meeting, a hiring committee composed of the mayor, public safety committee chair and the ranking member of the volunteer fire department chose Rau as the new chief.

Rau, who has been the assistant fire chief of the volunteer department for five years, worked at the White Pass and Yukon Route as a conductor and brakeman since 2016.

“As the paid fire chief, I don’t have to work the train in summertime,” Rau said. “That’s the busy time of the year. I’ll have the time to be available for the volunteers and staff,”

Rau has a history in fire departments in California and Alaska and retired from the Elk Grove Fire Department in California after serving 25 years. 

The growing population of tourists and residents was one of the reasons that the assembly chose to make the fire chief a paid position again.

“There were some identified issues that showed up over the past few summers. Response issues that needed attention,” Rau said. “(Former mayor Monica Carlson’s) solution was to go back to a full-time paid chief,”

Roy Johnston, a fire chief based in Juneau, was also selected in the final interview process. 

Some of the first things that Rau looks to do is to increase the pride and morale in Skagway’s volunteer force.

“I’m extremely proud and honored to be able to serve as Skagway’s fire chief and serve the community I love,” Rau said.