Rick Sieberg has been named chief of the Gardiner Fire Department. Sieberg, most recently a captain, has served with the Gardiner Fire Department for his entire career. Photo courtesy of Rick Sieberg

GARDINER — A veteran of the Gardiner Fire Department has been named its chief.

On Tuesday, Gardiner City Manager Christine Landes announced that Rick “Otter” Sieberg has been named chief after serving as acting chief since the August retirement of Al Nelson.

Sieberg, 43, said Tuesday that when he started with the Gardiner Fire Department in 1997, he’d had no plan to become chief.

“When (Nelson) told me he was getting done, he asked me if it would be something I would be interested in,” Sieberg said. “He said, ‘I think you would be good at it.'”

At that point, Sieberg said, he was two years from retirement and making plans to do something different and he hadn’t given it much thought. After speaking to his wife about it and praying about, he decided to pursue it.

“I think it was meant to be. I love the department, I love the communities we serve and the guys,” Sieberg said. “I think I can keep us moving in the same direction where Al had us going.”

For the last few years, Nelson had been working on adding firefighters to the staff to be able to provide more coverage for both the fire department and the Gardiner Ambulance Service, which is staffed by Gardiner’s firefighter/paramedics, and serves all or part of eight communities in southern Kennebec County and northern Sagadahoc County.

“The future of the fire service is EMS,” Sieberg said. “I’d love to improve our coverage, especially in our southern towns. I’d like to see us staff an ambulance in Richmond someday.

“Obviously, it’s a lot of money and you have to get the communities together,” he added, “but I think it’s doable.”

Before Nelson left, he applied for a federal Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. The SAFER grant, funded through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, pays for salary and benefits for two years. While the program requires no matching funds from the city, Gardiner must come up with the money to pay for salary and benefits when the grant expires.

Sieberg said no grant decision has been announced yet. If Gardiner’s application is not accepted, he said, he will continue to work to add staff for a third ambulance.

As it now stands, the Gardiner Fire Department and Ambulance Service fields more than 3,000 calls for service a year. With that volume of calls — the majority are ambulance calls — the Gardiner Fire Station can stand empty until calls are cleared.

Landes said as city manager, she’s pleased to see city employees advance their careers within the city government.

“Chief Sieberg will be a great addition to the management team and his 23 years of faithful and dedicated service to the city shows that he has a commitment that will carry forward into his new position,” she said.

At the Gardiner Fire Department, Sieberg has progressed through the ranks, serving as lieutenant and then as captain before this appointment.

Originally from Conway, New Hampshire, Sieberg attended New Hampshire Technical College, earning a degree in fire science. After being hired as a firefighter/emergency medical technician, he earned his paramedic license.

Sieberg lives in West Gardiner with his wife and two children.

Before this opportunity arose, he had been working on getting his captain’s license to run charter boats.

“I think this is probably better for me and my family in the short term,” Sieberg said.

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