One of Sequim’s first paid paramedics plans to call it a day next year.
Clallam County Fire District 3’s Fire Chief Steve Vogel, 62, announced he intends to retire Aug. 31, 2015, after 34 years of service in Sequim.
While there are still several months left, Vogel said it’s time to do something else. “I’ve gotten to know a lot of people in the community and I definitely have no regrets,” he said.
Vogel became Clallam County Fire District 3’s second paid full-time firefighter/paramedic a few months after its first hire Aaron Espy in June 1982.
Vogel said when he started he lived in his truck camper until he could find a rental, which were hard to come by at the time. In his first year, the fire district responded to about 500 calls, Vogel said, with about half of those serious medical calls.
“It was a time where people were learning that the fire district was now running on medical calls,” he said. “The second year of the paramedic program (1983) the fire district ran 895 calls of fire and medical.”
By the end of 2014, fire officials expect its firefighters/medics to have reported to about 6,500 fire/medical calls.
Assistant Chief Tony Hudson has known Vogel for about 30 years and said the fire chief is likable and he’ll be remembered for his relationship with the community and efforts to increase services.
“The fire district has changed a lot (with Vogel),” Hudson said. “When I started he was a captain and there were two on a shift and now we have 11.”
Aside from increasing personnel, Hudson said Vogel was instrumental in expanding Sequim’s paramedic program, adding things in the field like blood tests, electrocardiograms and much more.
The fire chief also helped establish the training facility next to Greywolf Elementary School for the fire district.
Vogel said the average amount of time for a fire chief to serve a district/city is about five years. He was promoted to fire chief in February 2001 after the retirement of Tom Lowe, who became the first paid fire chief in May 1981.
“He was hard shoes to fill,” Vogel said. “It was like filling in for Michael Jordan. He knew everyone in the valley.”
Vogel worked his way up from his first promotion as captain in January 1988 and later to assistant chief in April 1992.
Vogel said he plans to separate himself from the hiring process for his current job.
“I’ve done all the hiring and firing since I became chief in 2001. It’s time for me to let them make their choices. I want to be able to walk into the building and ask where’s the coffee and feel good about walking in,” he said.
Vogel said Assistant Chief Roger Moeder plans to retire shortly after him so the fire commission likely will hire for that position shortly after finding a new fire chief.
James Barnfather, chairman of the fire commission, said over the next few months commissioners will choose between Assistant Chief Ben Andrews and Hudson.
“These two men have demonstrated their ability to lead and inspire throughout their careers,” Barnfather said. “Therefore, there would be no reason to search the countryside for our new fire chief, when it is clear to us that we already have the most qualified candidates, both literally and figuratively, right in front of us.”
Both Andrews and Hudson will be evaluated over the months, Barnfather said, and the fire commission plans to announce its decision for a new fire chief in April 2015.
When Vogel retires, his plan is to take his art work of pen and inks, watercolor and oils and etching much more seriously again.
He plans to stay in Sequim, too, and consider volunteer opportunities but take some time before looking.