Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs: Leading with a Passion

Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs: Leading with a Passion

CLARKSVILLE, IN (April 18, 2022) – Firefighter, leader, community servant.  Any or all of these terms can be used to describe the position of Clarksville Fire Chief Brandon Skaggs.  For Chief Skaggs, however, the position is much more than a job that pays the bills.  To him, serving the Town of Clarksville is a way of life, and a mission that he is proud to undertake.  In fact, if you ever have the chance to sit down an talk to him about the department and what it does for the community, plan to be listening for a while.  Chief Skaggs loves nothing more than to boast about the amazing department he is fortunate to lead, and the talented firefighters he is lucky to work with each day.  You could say being the Fire Chief is more of a passion for Brandon Skaggs than an actual job.

Brandon Skaggs is a lifelong resident of Clarksville, and proud of it.  When we interviewed him for this article, he lit up as he told us stories of himself growing up at the Clarksville Fire Department, all the while knowing that one day he wanted to serve the community in that same building.  He did just that, serving the Clarksville Fire Department as a firefighter for 14 years.  During that time, he noticed something was missing within the department.

“We weren’t putting ourselves in a position to create relationships or bonds with our youth or community,” said Brandon Skaggs. “One way we could have done that is to put ourselves out there more and get more involved with our community.”

In 2016, Skaggs earned the opportunity to make those bonds a reality when he became the new Clarksville Fire Chief.  He says one of the main goals he had when he got the job was to get the department more involved in the community, so that residents see firefighters in action outside of emergency situations.

“When these families or kids meet us, its usually during a traumatic or serious situation, but I felt we could add more value to the community if we meet them in other ways.”

Clarksville Elementary students run drills during a field trip.

The first thing Skaggs did was to expand on the department’s fire education course at the local elementary schools.  In previous years, firefighters visited schools once a year to discuss fire safety with the kids for 15-20 minutes.  Skaggs wanted to expand the program to be more like the police DARE program, which took place over the course of several weeks.  It was an idea that he and fellow firefighter Jeff Spainhour developed before Skaggs became Chief.  Once he was put in charge of the department, Skaggs was finally able to put the program into action.  He credits Spainhour for developing the course and managing it for the last several years.

The program is now in place for Clarksville Elementary School and Parkwood Elementary School.  Every 4th grade class participates in the program for 5-6 weeks, one hour per week.  Students learn about fire safety and prevention, as well as training for things such as checking the batteries in smoke detectors, how to make a call to 911, and creating an escape plan in case of a fire in their homes. Skaggs says that by being proactive and teaching kids about fire safety while they are young, they are more likely to share the message with their family.

“Kids keep their parents honest,” says Skaggs. “If we’re talking about smoke detectors, if we’re talking about fire extinguishers, these kids will hassle their parents enough to where they will say ‘okay, we will get this taken care of’.”

Clarksville Elementary students try on fire department turnout gear.

Skaggs says the kids’ favorite part of the program is the final week in which they take a field trip to the Clarksville Fire Department Headquarters.  Students are given a tour of the firehouse and the fire trucks, then take part in a field day filled with firefighter training type drills and competitions.  They end the day with lunch prepared for them by the firefighters themselves.  Skaggs says although the event is a blast for the kids, his firefighters enjoy it just as much.

Outside of the fire prevention program, Skaggs continues to search for new ways to get the department involved with the community.  One of his favorite events involves teaming up with Santa Claus for a parade through town each winter.  Santa and his elves ride through Clarksville on a fire truck decorated with Christmas lights, in hopes of spreading a little Christmas cheer.  Skaggs also takes pride in the various public events his department participates in including ClarkFEST, the Clarksville Parks & Recreation Department’s ‘Touch-A-Truck’, and various health and safety demonstrations throughout Town.

“Community involvement is what drives me to be the Chief here in Clarksville,” says Skaggs. “Being able to walk into the grocery store and see a kid who recognizes me from a community event and is excited to tell me about how much fun they had with our firefighters, it makes it all worth it.”

Even though most of his time is spent serving our community, Chief Skaggs does not stop giving back when he is ‘off the clock’.  When he isn’t at work, Chief Skaggs spends a lot of time working with the local Boy Scout Troop in Clarksville, of which his son Garrett is a member.  Their most recent project is creating a permanent place for flag retirement ceremonies on the Town of Clarksville government campus.  The burn pit is part of an Eagle Scout project, and is in the shape of the pentagon to represent the five branches of the armed forces.

Skaggs with his son Garrett and daughters Sophie and Sutton.

He also tries to get the Boy Scouts involved in serving the Clarksville community in other ways.  Most recently, they volunteered to help the Town of Clarksville with it’s first-ever “Warmth for Winter” clothing drive, which collected warm clothes for our homeless population.  Skaggs and his young scouts stood outside in the cold for hours in hopes of keeping those les fortunate warm in the winter.

When he isn’t at work or volunteering with the Boy Scouts, Chief Skaggs says he loves spending time with his family.  He and his wife Dana have three children including their oldest son Garrett, and their two daughters, Sophie and Sutton.  Skaggs’ other love is spending time in the great outdoors, fishing, hunting, and hiking. Just a few ways he enjoys some much deserved time away from serving the community.

“I don’t know, its just kind of my passion,” says Skaggs. “To actually serve the community and not just in times of an emergency.  The amount of joy it brings to these kids is actually pretty amazing.”