New fire safety educator and public information officer Dee Griffin will “assure the public is more aware of activities ... going on with the fire department and assure the media is quickly and adequately aware of things that are going on,” said Fire Chief Chris James.
The position is an expansion of duties previously held by the department’s fire safety educator position, James said. It pays around $51,000, he said.
Griffin, who attended Immaculate Conception Catholic School and Aquinas High School, then Fisk University and a journalism master’s program at Northwestern University, co-anchored for WJBF with former mayor Bob Young during the mid-1990s. She went on to stations in Hartford, Conn., Kansas City, Mo., and Memphis, where she stayed for eight years.
“It’s pretty ironic. When I was eight years old I won the fire prevention week essay contest,” Griffin said.
Her imaginative essay was about Rip Van Winkle awakening to Augusta’s Great Fire of 1916. Griffin said she’s excited about helping the city commemorate the devastating fire’s 100-year anniversary in two years.
“Now that I’m on board we’re trying to put all the components together,” Griffin said. “The chief really wants to do something.”
Besides her PIO duties, Griffin said she will continue the city’s program of educating the public, especially kids, about fire safety. She will use social media, write press releases and be available to answer media questions when incidents occur.
James said Griffin will also keep the public better informed about the good work done by Augusta Fire Department that sometimes gets overlooked, such as its dive team and hazardous materials team, both of which travel outside Augusta-Richmond whenever a neighboring county needs help.
Although the position isn’t a new one, two Augusta commissioners said they were surprised to learn it had been filled, likely requiring approval by interim administrator Tameka Allen.
“As far as I knew, all positions had been frozen,” Commissioner Donnie Smith said.
“Especially when firefighters need raises and budgets are tight,” Commissioner Joe Jackson said.