Osceola County names new fire chief

Larry Collier says he grew up with Osceola County Fire Rescue – and it grew with him.

Now, after almost 25 years of public service, Collier has been tapped as Osceola’s new fire chief.

Collier says he’s always aspired to the position, but when the news became official at Monday’s County Commission meeting, the feeling was still incredible.

“It was extremely exciting,” he said. “I think we’re at a pivotal time in Osceola County with our growth and our department, and I’m thrilled to be here.”

For Collier, the men and women who serve with him are an extension of his own family, a group of individuals entrusting one another with their lives and the lives of residents. Collier, a Louisiana native, came to Osceola County in 1990 not long after graduating high school. He got a job at Disney as he searched for more direction in his life.

That purpose came when he volunteered at the Campbell City fire station. He fell in love with giving back to the community, and soon, went to school to earn his EMS certification. He was 22 years old when he was hired on.

“At that time, the department only had two fire trucks,” he said. “As I’ve grown up over the years, so has the department.”

Collier worked his way through the ranks from a firefighter paramedic, to lieutenant to battalion chief, division chief and finally, deputy chief, where he’s served for the last decade.

When he officially takes over for retiring Fire Chief Robert Sorenson on June 21, Collier will oversee a growing fleet of equipment and 361 personnel expanding steadily to meet the complex needs of Osceola County.  Fire Rescue has seen a 20 to 25 percent call volume increase as the county’s population grew, including over 21,000 calls a year for EMS services, and 15 fire stations that cover about 1,500 square miles – not including waterways.

“The county has made the department a priority, so we’re poised for expansion,” he said. “We’re really looking at how to improve our service area.”

The county didn’t officially start looking for candidates until May 1. Collier went through a competitive interview process to get the new title.

Sixteen qualified applicants were identified and then narrowed down to six.

County Manager Don Fisher conducted the final interview with Collier before the recommendation went before elected officials three days later.

“This was a position that got a lot of attention because of some of the people who applied,” said Fred Hawkins Jr. at Monday’s County Commission meeting. “But when I spoke to firefighters last week, and asked who they would pick, they all said Larry. You have the support of your guys.”

With just a couple of weeks remaining before he starts work in his new role, Collier said he’s grateful – and ready to get to work.

“It’s extremely humbling,” he said. “To take the baton from men I’ve worked with for years so I can lead a department I love.”