Process begins to name Fort Smith fire station after the late Chief Christensen

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 2,626 views 

Though it will be a few more months before signage is in place, the process has begun to rename Fire Station No. 1 the Philip P. Christensen Fire Station 1 in honor and memory of the late Chief Phil Christensen, who died Feb. 11 after a nine-month battle with cancer.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors unanimously passed a resolution March 7 suggesting renaming the fire station at 200 N. Fifth St. in accordance with city policy.

Christensen joined the Fort Smith Fire Department as a firefighter May 26, 1992. He served 31 with distinction, having been promoted to chief of the department in 2016. Fire Station No. 1 was chosen by city administrators as the city facility most associated with Christensen during his career with the Fort Smith Fire Department, noted a memo from Assistant City Director Jeff Dingman.

The city’s policy for the naming of city facilities requires the board approve a resolution suggesting the name change. Once that is done, the suggested name has to be published in the local newspaper for at least four weeks, during which time citizen comments are received. After review of all public comments and after the four-week public notice period, a second resolution is considered to formally designate the name of the city facility.

“I will work with Acting Fire Chief Boyd Waters and his staff on the plaque during the comment period. Once the Board passes the second resolution, the order will be placed and a time arranged for Chief Christensen’s family, the Mayor, the Board, and City staff to attend the formal naming ceremony and the unveiling of the plaque,” said City Administrator Carl Geffken.

There is not yet a cost estimate on the plaque or signage, he said.

During the board meeting prior to passing the resolution, Director Kevin Settle requested that the city also place a plaque naming all members of the fire brigades who served under Christensen at the time of his death.

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

“(It would be something they could) show their kids and grandkids what it meant to serve under Phil at that time because whenever we talked to him, he made sure it wasn’t about Phil, that it was about his team,” Settle said.

Christensen’s family received several other recognitions from the state after his death, Geffken told the board, including a letter from Gov. Sarah Sanders to his family; a proclamation in the Arkansas General Assembly and a flag that flew over the state capital in his honor and memory.

“To the family of Philip Patrick Christensen, Bryan and I are saddened to hear of the passing of an Arkansas hero, Chief Philip Christensen. No doubt during his distinguished service as a firefighter, he was a mentor, friend, and steady leader to many under his command. Chief Christensen’s legacy is an inspiration to us all. On behalf of the citizens of Arkansas, I applaud his commitment to the state and to the community of Fort Smith. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time,” noted the letter from Gov. Sanders.