David Sprague was confirmed May 9, 2023, as the city’s permanent fire chief. In this file photo, he radios colleagues from the top of the hill where the mudslide began on Jan. 16, 2023. Credit: Kelly Sullivan

David Sprague, who has led the Berkeley Fire Department on an interim basis since June, has been confirmed to the position permanently.

The City Council voted unanimously to make the job permanent Tuesday. His base salary will be $268,320 when the new title kicks in Sunday.

Sprague, a city native and graduate of Berkeley High School, has worked as a city firefighter, paramedic and supervisor since 2001.

Amory Langmo, president of the Berkeley Fire Fighters Association, offered an endorsement for the chief.

“In his time as interim chief, Chief Sprague has demonstrated exemplary leadership skills, extensive experience and a deep commitment to the safety and well-being of the Berkeley community,” Langmo said Tuesday.

Sprague led the development of a new wildlife urban interface division and worked with city schools to develop career technical education programs in firefighting and related skills, which he said could act as a pipeline of city high schoolers right into entry-level city jobs.

“The way that Chief Sprague has interacted with our schools is lasting, is meaningful,” Jennifer Shanoski, a school board member, said Tuesday.

Ben Gerhardstein, an organizer with Walk Bike Berkeley, which has advocated for more bicycle and pedestrian routes in the city, praised the chief’s years of service but said he hoped the department would get “more actively involved Vision Zero efforts and establishing effective working relationships with public works.”

The chief himself has said that he hopes the department will modernize how it receives 911 calls. He said it is difficult to triage calls under the present system, which can tie up fire department equipment at calls where it’s not necessarily needed.

Sprague is also aiming to bring up the department’s staffing level. The department is short 18 full-time employees, or 14% of its full-time staff, not counting employees on long-term leave, according to a presentation Sprague gave in April to the council’s Budget and Finance Committee. That vacancy rate, in turn, drives higher overtime costs, he said.

The unanimous vote to confirm Sprague was met with a standing ovation on the council’s consent agenda was met with a standing ovation from friends, relatives and fire service colleagues.

“It’s an incredible honor to work with you and to lead the organization and I’m looking forward to everything that’s coming,” Sprague said. “I’m more than humbled to be here right now.”

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Alex N. Gecan joined Berkeleyside in 2023 as a senior reporter covering public safety. He has covered criminal justice, courts and breaking and local news for The Middletown Press, Stamford Advocate and...