Fort Smith fire chief dies after battle with cancer

by Talk Business & Politics staff ([email protected]) 1,852 views 

Fort Smith Fire Department Chief Phil Christensen has died after a nine-month battle with cancer. He was 54. Christensen, who worked with the fire department since 1992, was named chief in July 2016 after serving as interim chief since November 2015.

“It is with great sadness that we must report Fire Chief Phil Christensen has passed. Chief Christensen valiantly battled cancer for the last 9 months. His is a Line of Duty death as his cancer was certainly from an exposure during his time as firefighter. As soon as service arrangements are made, we will update everyone. Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers as they navigate this difficult time,” noted a statement posted to the department’s Facebook page.

As the chief, Christensen supervised all battalion and division chiefs.

Throughout his career, Christensen received 18 certifications specific to fire safety, hazardous materials, emergency management, and administration throughout from Southern Arkansas University-Tech (SAU-Tech), the National Fire Academy, the International Fire Safety Accreditation Congress (IFSAC), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management (ADEM), the Arkansas Forestry Commission (AFC), the Arkansas Fire Academy (AFA), the Public Agency Training Council (PATC), the International Association of Arson Investigators (IAAI), and the Fire Department Instructors Conference (FDIC). He is currently enrolled in the FBI Bomb Squad Executive Management Course.

“Chief Christensen’s leadership qualities are outstanding,” City Administrator Carl Geffken said when Christensen was named chief. “Chief Christensen is highly respected by his peers. His career has gone from firefighter, driver, captain, Local 33 President, Battalion Chief, Division Chief of Operations, Assistant Fire Chief and to Fire Chief.”

Philip Christensen, Fort Smith Fire Department chief, 2016-2023

Geffken said Saturday he has appointed Assistant Chief Boyd Waters to interim chief.

The Fort Smith Police Department issued the following statement: “Our hearts are heavy today with the news of Fire Chief Christensen’s passing. His family and his brothers and sisters at the Fort Smith Fire Department, you are in our thoughts and prayers. Please remember them today and in the days to come”

This story will be updated when Christensen’s obituary is published.