Glendale Fire Department announced Aug. 3 that Ken Barnes had been promoted to assistant fire chief after Chris DeChant accepted the fire chief position in El Mirage in July.
Barnes said his career began with a chance encounter with a Phoenix fire captain at church.
“I was brought up in a construction family and actually wanted to be an architect, when (the fire captain) said I should look into being a firefighter,” Barnes said in a recent interview. “Funny story, I wanted to be an architect and my brother wanted to be a firefighter and it ended up being the opposite.”
After the encounter at church, Barnes said he went on a ride-along in Phoenix, which sparked his love of fire services.
“I actually spent 24 hours at a fire house and went along on a call where they brought a heroin-overdose victim back to life,” Barnes said. “I also had a warehouse fire and after talking to the firemen, I was hooked.”
After beginning his career in Avondale, Barnes, 55, joined the Glendale Fire Department. He has been married to his wife, Molly, for 34 years and has three daughters and two grandchildren.
He began as a firefighter 28 years ago and advanced to engineer in 1998 and captain in 2001. He was part of the special operations team after completing hazardous materials and trench rescue training schools. He also has been chief of special operations, including planning and carrying out stadium safety during Super Bowl 49 in 2015.
Barnes said it is more than just being a firefighter and he is hoping to show that he can make a difference throughout the department.
“My key values are my morals, work ethic and how I value my members. And what I want to do for them is make them feel safe and valued while they are here,” Barnes said. “I honestly believe that it is how you treat your employees, not how you treat your customers. If you treat your employees great, they will treat the customer even better.”
He said he will continue to work closely with Fire Chief Terry Garrison, as well as fellow Assistant Fire Chief Gary Benson.
“I will handle logistics and (Benson) operations, but we talk numerous times a day,” Barnes said. “I like to pride myself on the team aspect and having a total team effort when it comes to public safety.”
Barnes said he believes communication is the key from the Fire Department to the Police Department and city officials to make sure everything is done the correct way to showcase the city.
“I have worked closely with the Police Department as part of the special operations and I will work hard to continue that strong relationship,” Barnes said. “We actually need to get closer, especially after major events — like the Las Vegas shooting — so we are better prepared for anything that may happen in the future.”
Barnes added that while he was starting to think about retirement, he is now focused on working to improve the city.
“I have 28 years on the job and I am happy in my position here in Glendale,” Barnes said. “In five years, I hope to be in a position to be a fire chief if the opportunity arises.”
But he added, “I will continue to work to improve myself in every aspect in my job. And I would be happy retiring in this position as long as I can better the organization while I am here.”