FORT SMITH -- The city's Fire Station No. 1 will be named the Philip P. Christensen Fire Station 1 in honor of the former fire chief and his three decades of service to the community.
City directors unanimously approved renaming the station at 200 N. Fifth St. during its meeting Tuesday.
Interim Fire Chief Boyd Waters, in a memo to City Administrator Carl Geffken, said Fire Station No. 1 is the city facility most associated with Christensen during his career with the Fire Department. He said the suggested name is to be published in a newspaper for at least four weeks for residents' comments to be received. After all public comments are reviewed, and after the four-week public notice period, a second resolution would be considered to formally name the station.
"This, I think, is a small but very important token of respect and gratitude that we can provide for a really, really fantastic human being in his 30-plus years of service to our community," Ward 1 Director Jarred Rego said. "He may be gone from us physically, but as long as we remember him and the things that he served himself with and the things he dedicated his life to, and as long as we keep his name visible and around, people will always have the opportunity to learn about him and from him, the example he set and just how fortunate we all were to really have him serving here for over three decades."
"He was just an outstanding individual, and it was a great loss for all of us, of course, but it was a greater loss for his family," Ward 3 Director Lavon Morton said. "It's something that I know that they'll remember him very fondly for many years. Our sympathies to the family of Phil Christensen."
At-Large Director Kevin Settle asked all the firefighters that worked with Christensen at the time of his death have their names and ranks put on a plaque at the station, as well.
"It was never about Phil; it was all about his team," Settle said, referring to the way Christensen spoke about the Fire Department.
Geffken also noted at the meeting Christensen's family received a condolence letter from Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and the state House of Representatives issued a proclamation remembering him.
"Chief Christensen's legacy is an inspiration to us all. On behalf of the citizens of Arkansas, I applaud his commitment to our state and the community of Fort Smith. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time," Sanders said.
"Chief Christensen pledged his courage to embrace and conquer his own fear and to take him where others would not go, pledged his strength to protect others and to lead others, pledged his dedication to his job and to his community and pledged his concern for those who trusted him and his compassion for those who needed it," the proclamation stated.
Christensen, 54, died Feb. 11 following a nine-month battle with cancer, according to his obituary.
Christensen joined the Fire Department in May 1992. He was named Fort Smith's fire chief in July 2016.
Hundreds attended his funeral. Downtown area roads were temporarily closed as a funeral procession made its way from Fire Station No. 1 to Evangel Temple.
Geffken described Christensen as a "kind, caring man who touched everyone's heart." He said the funeral was a celebration of Christensen's life and love of his family, which included his wife of 34 years, Kim; two children, Josh and Jordan; and three grandchildren, Rhett, Harper and Beau.
The Fire Department was also Christensen's chosen family, and he respected and loved everyone in it, according to Geffken. Being chief requires being able to see the needs of the department, city and staff in the present and the future, he said. Christensen was able to do all this because he always put others first and helped those in need.