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Hazelwood Gets a New Acting Fire Chief

After Fire Chief Jim Matthies' June 30 retirement, Assistant Chief Dave Radel is filling the position until a permanent appointment can be made.

In the wake of Hazelwood Fire Chief Jim Matthies’ , assistant chief Dave Radel has stepped up to be the acting chief as the city decides who will permanently fill the position.

“A final decision on hiring a fire chief has been put on hold pending Radel’s performance over the next couple of months,” Hazelwood’s communications coordinator Tim Davidson said in an email.

Meet Dave Radel

Radel, who grew up in Hazelwood, said that he would welcome the opportunity to serve the community permanently as Hazelwood’s new fire chief.

“I grew up down the street at 702 Teson Rd. from 1959 to 1974 and walked through Howdershell Park where the firehouse is now my entire childhood,” Radel said. “I am a 1972 graduate of the , the only one at the time.”

After high school, Radel got his associate’s degee in fire science technology. He said he is currently in the process of finishing his final three classes to complete his bachelor’s degree in fire service management.

Radel has a long history with the , one that began more than 30 years ago. Like retired chief Jim Matthies, Radel has served in many positions within the department.

“I started with the Hazelwood Fire Department in July 1978 at the ripe old age of 24,” he said. “I have served as a backstep (the person who rides backward on the fire truck), firefighter, rescue squad, fire inspector, fire captain, deputy chief, and for the last four years, assistant chief.”

Radel said that for 12 of those years, he had the privilege of representing Hazelwood firefighters in the Professional Firefighters of Eastern Missouri-International Association of Fire Fighters Union Local 2665. He has also been an arson investigator licensed with the Missouri Division of Fire Safety, Office of the State Fire Marshal since 1990, and he’s an emergency medical technician.

“All of these positions combined have given me a wide perspective and valuable experience I hope will serve me well,” he said. “Fortunately I am, even if just temporarily, inheriting a department that has been managed extraordinarily well.”

Acting As Fire Chief

Radel said that while “lean economic times” have caused the Hazelwood Fire Department to run “an extremely lean operation,” he believes that the department can never compromise on high-quality equipment and training.

“Those priorities and the fact that we have, in my humble opinion, some of the best firefighters and paramedics in the field, set a course for us to continue on in the future,” Radel said. “I am in the process of establishing some committees to advise me as to the areas of equipment and training that need upgrades or improvements and intend to review those as soon as possible.”

Radel added that he even after being with the department so long, he still loves his job.

“After all these years, I consider being a firefighter for the Hazelwood Fire Department one of the most blessed things in my life, second only to my family and friends,” he said. “Very few people get the opportunity, every day of their job, to be called out to help people in trouble and make the kind of difference that this service allows.”

Considering how much Radel loves serving the community, it’s not surprising that he hopes to be chosen to fill the fire chief position permanently.

“Chief Matthies' decision was rather sudden, so right now the transition is a little overwhelming,” Radel said. “But yes, I think I would welcome the opportunity to be chief of the Hazelwood Fire Department and serve the community in which I was raised in that capacity.”

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