New chief has been 'hooked' on firefighting for 30 years
June 11, 2008 · Updated 11:30 AM
"Volunteerism can change one's whole life and direction.An example is Ken Burdette, who started his new job as chief of Central Kitsap Fire and Rescue yesterday.Burdette follows in the tradition of recently retired CKFR Chief Executive Officer Richard West and Fire Chief Steve Bigelow, who retired in December. Those two and Burdette, who comes to Silverdale from his previous posting as deputy chief for the Portland Fire Department, all became volunteer firefighters while training for other careers.In Burdette's case, he was attending Oregon College of Education - now Western Oregon University - with an eye to teaching social sciences when he volunteered with the Monmouth, Ore., fire department in 1969.My roommate was a volunteer firefighter. He asked if I wanted to join the fire department. I said 'sure,' Burdette recalled.That was a Wednesday.I went to my first drill Wednesday night. Thursday at 10 a.m. I went to my first fire, and I've been hooked ever since, Burdette said. I decided right then that whenever I became a teacher, I had to be a volunteer firefighter. As was the case with West and Bigelow, however, he eventually decided to become a professional firefighter.Burdette even followed his chosen career while on active duty with the Navy. He served as a damage controlman, the closest they had to a firefighter, while stationed at Pearl Harbor in 1971.He got out of the service just before Christmas 1972, and started as a student firefighter with the city of Beaverton, Ore., Jan. 1, 1973.Actually I worked four days a week at the fire district, and was in school one day a week. I lived across the street from the fire station, and could beat the paid guys on the ride. I responded to everything, Burdette said.He became a career firefighter when the Portland Fire Department hired him later in 1973, and moved up through the ranks from there.I still love it, he said. I don't have to go to work, I get to go to work.Burdette applied for the CKFR job after deciding he needed a new challenge.He lived in the small community of Boring, Ore. where he also served on the board of the local fire district. The district had three stations, and both career and volunteer firefighters, Burdette said.I looked at this as an opportunity to do what I loved doing, but it's something different than I've been doing, he said.He said the staff size difference between CKFR and Portland, which employs 727 firefighters, will require an adjustment.But he's also served on state and national committees and worked with all sizes of departments. I don't see it as an issue, but as an opportunity to grow both personally and professionally, Burdette said.I think this is an excellent department. I commend Chief West for bringing it to where it is today, and also Chief Bigelow, he said. I'm excited to take that over, and hopefully I can bring some things to it.Burdette said he's a real proponent of safety and training, ... (and) of community involvement.I believe we in the fire service are here to serve the citizens of the CKFR district, and provide the very best service we can, not only from an emergency standpoint, but from a community safety standpoint, he said.When he's not being the chief, Burdette plans to do some golfing.I like to golf, I don't know if I'd call myself a golfer, he demurred.He also enjoys his family, which includes wife Julie and two grown children. Ryan, 24, still lives in Oregon, and daughter Keri, 21, is a health major at Western Oregon University.Flying is also high on his list of fun things to do.A pilot since 1983, he is licensed to fly single-engine planes, and has an instrument rating.I've always loved airplanes. There's no such thing as an ugly airplane, Burdette said. "