Denver fire chief sworn in, faces daunting budget


By Christopher N. Osher
The Denver Post

DENVER — Jim Sestrich applied to be Denver's top firefighter two years ago and lost out.

But on Tuesday, he ended up winning that post when he was sworn in as the new fire chief. Sestrich will be paid $153,873 annually under the salary terms set by city ordinance.

Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper picked Sestrich to head the Fire Department at a critical time.

The mayor is proposing deep budget cuts to close a $160 million budget deficit, and the Fire Department is sharing in the pain.

On Tuesday, Denver firefighters agreed to delay pay raises negotiated for 2010 and 2011 until December of each year.

"Everybody has dreams of where they would like to take things," Sestrich said in an interview. "But when you don't have the budget to do that, it's very difficult and you have to look at alternative means of doing that - and you have to maintain what you have."

Sestrich joined the Fire Department in July 1976 and has held numerous positions at the department. He was interim fire chief after Larry Trujillo retired in August 2007 and was a finalist for the top job then. The mayor at that time picked Nick

Nuanes as chief, who is retiring effective this week.

When Nuanes was named chief, Sestrich became district chief in charge of District 4 in east Denver.

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