Archive for Wednesday, November 15, 2000

Hail to the chief

Ritter promoted from assistant to eSoto`s new head of fire department

November 15, 2000

DeSoto`s newest fire chief said he is inheriting a solid organization.

The city council promoted Kevin Ritter to fire chief Nov. 2. At that same meeting, Mike Frehe was promoted from captain to assistant chief, a position Ritter has held the past four years.

Ritter is now in charge of a department with 26 volunteers, two pumper trucks, a recently purchased grass rig and new tanker.

Ritter said much of the credit for the improvement should go to his predecessor Dale Walker, the veteran 23-year chief who resigned earlier this month.

"This department has developed into one of the best fire and EMS departments in the county," Ritter said. "I`ve seen some big changes in the last 10 years.

"Dale did a great job of structuring the department as it is. We owe him an awful lot."

Three more recruits are set to join the department soon, Ritter said. They will reinforce a department that is already within it optimal manpower size of 25 to 30 volunteers. Still, the new chief said he wouldn`t discourage new recruits.

"Anyone who wants to participate will find an open door," he said. "Manpower is really a safety factor."

Normally, several crews work a fire, Ritter said. Each crew works for about 20 to 25 minutes before getting needed breaks. During rest periods, a crew`s performance is evaluated.

The department also has 15 emergency medical service volunteers, Ritter said. He hopes DeSoto will host a first-responder class early next year. That will allow all department volunteers to be certified in that category and perhaps attract new recruits.

The new chief`s goals for the department are simple and perhaps unavoidable.

"I want to see our department grow," Ritter said. "I would like to see our boundaries grow along with the city`s."

The department`s recent equipment additions are putting a strain on storage at the fire station next to City Hall. Currently, some equipment has to be stored at the city building at 81st and Ottawa, Ritter said.

Ideally, a station would have three bays with front-and-rear drive-through access, Ritter said. That design would provide parking spots for six department vehicles.

Although it is far from any decision, the city council has had some discussion about building a new fire department. To offset the estimated $200,000 cost, the council had the current City Hall appraised. That appraisal came back at $170,000.

City offices are to move into the old middle school when renovations are completed.

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