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New chief settling into job

Hertel aims to increase volunteerism

Fred Hertel, Dallas' new fire chief, took over the position on Dec. 9 with a simple, but not necessarily easy, objective for the department: "To leave it better than I found it."

Photo by Jolene Guzman

Fred Hertel, Dallas' new fire chief, took over the position on Dec. 9 with a simple, but not necessarily easy, objective for the department: "To leave it better than I found it."

January 07, 2014

DALLAS — Fred Hertel was still in the interview process for the Dallas fire chief job when he received a big vote of confidence in his potential career move from his wife, Julie.

"When I was interviewing, my wife took some time to drive around and she actually sent me a text," Hertel said last week. "Between interviews when I was waiting I read it and it said, 'You must get this job. I love this town,' or something similar to that."

It turns out Dallas believed Hertel — the former deputy chief at Estacada — was a good match, too, offering him the job, which he began on Dec. 9.

He said, so far, he likes what he sees.

"I was looking for a new challenge, a new direction," Hertel said. "All of our children are out of our house, so that left my wife and I able to move. I felt that I had improved Estacada to the best of my ability … so I felt I could go and help out another department get better."

Hertel has devoted 27 years to being a firefighter, starting in his hometown of North Plains in Washington County, where he began volunteering shortly after high school.

"Friends of mine were joining the volunteer fire department, so I asked if I could go with them," he said. "From there I just fell in love with it. It really wasn't even on my radar; I was studying to be a civil engineer."

In Dallas, one of his main objectives will be to convince more people to become volunteers, like he did.

"We have positions available in a wide variety of things," he said. "It doesn't always have to be somebody willing to run into burning buildings."

Recruiting volunteers is becoming increasingly difficult — and not just in Dallas.

"Volunteerism is down nationwide and volunteers account for about 75 percent of the nation's firefighting (personnel)," Hertel said.

Changes in the regional economy have also contributed to a local downward trend in volunteering.

"It used to be that people would stay in their community and businesses would allow their employees to take time off on the times that there was a fire incident," Hertel said. "That is pretty rare these days."

The city of Dallas has pledged to allow its employees to take time to volunteer, and Hertel is hoping other businesses will do the same.

To add a layer of difficulty, the department will lose its training facility in March. Dallas has applied for a $480,000 grant that would pay for building a new facility, but will need to find land within the next year or two to build it.

Those challenges don't seem to bother Hertel, though.

"There are a lot good people here," he said. "I think the organization as a whole is well put together and is ready for change and new direction, which fits kind of what I'm all about."

Meet the New Chief ...

Name: Fred Hertel.

Title: City of Dallas fire chief.

Age: 44.

Hometown: North Plains.

Firefighting experience: 27 years with departments in North Plains, Baker City and Estacada.

Family: Wife, Julie; children — son, Tyler, daughter, Kassidy, and stepdaughters, Amanda and Mallory.

Favorite hobby: Hunting, fishing, hiking, camping — or anything that gets him outdoors.

Favorite sport: He enjoys football the most, but had an unconventional way of choosing a favorite team. It was actually his wife's decision — based on the best uniform. The team was the San Diego Chargers. "So we said, 'OK, the Chargers are it by the color of their uniforms,'" Hertel said laughing. "I tell that story to everyone. It's pretty funny."

Want to Volunteer?

• Dallas fire is looking for more volunteers in fire suppression, special services and support service.

Those looking to apply must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and live within the city of Dallas or urban growth boundary. All volunteers must have a valid Oregon driver's license, pass a background check and meet minimum fitness standards.

For more information or to find a volunteer application, go to: www.ci.dallas.or.us/index.aspx?NID=163 or call 503-831-3533.

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