Carol Stream fire chief stepping down
Carol Stream Fire Chief Rick Kolomay is planning to retire citing medical issues after a nearly 37-year career.
Kolomay says he's forced to step down because of what he called major, "cumulative" injuries that keep him from doing the job.
"It's really a bittersweet experience for me," he said.
Kolomay has been on medical leave since December and recently had shoulder surgery, officials said.
"The problem with Rick, Rick is a hands-on guy," Mayor Frank Saverino said. "If they're climbing ladders, he's climbing ladders ... He's got to be right there with them. He leads by example, and when you lead by example, and it's physical, it's hard."
The board hasn't picked a successor. Kolomay's last day with the fire protection district hasn't been determined, either, and the board of trustees is expected to discuss his retirement at its Feb. 15 meeting.
"I don't think it was expected by anybody, Rick included," fire district Trustee Rick Fisher said.
Trustees previously have filled the top post from within the ranks of the 15-square-mile district, which covers Carol Stream and parts of Bloomingdale, Winfield and Glendale Heights.
"Definitely we try to promote from within whenever absolutely possible," Fisher said.
Deputy Fire Chief Bob Hoff, a former Chicago Fire Department commissioner, has been handling Kolomay's duties in his absence. Hoff was hired in 2012 as part of a reshuffling of district leadership, less than two weeks after he stepped down as the head of the nation's second-biggest department.
Then-Deputy Chief Perry Johnson moved to a newly created civilian position overseeing district finances and the fire prevention bureau, among other administrative jobs. Hoff's sworn position involves training firefighters and developing fitness regimens.
Hoff and Kolomay met in 1985, when he was a student in a class Kolomay taught at the state fire academy.
After 23 years working in the Schaumburg Fire Department, Kolomay returned less than a decade ago to the district where he began his career in 1979. Kolomay was promoted from deputy to interim chief in 2009 and permanently got the job several months later.
Kolomay, a third-generation firefighter, "created a new culture" that unified personnel and stressed training, Fisher said.
"We've done some good things together, negotiated some good contracts, worked thorough some personnel issues," said Carol Stream Firefighters Association Local 3192 President Rick Bonk, a lieutenant in the district. "He's certainly improved our level of firefighting skill overall."
Bonk said he didn't know whether Hoff was interested in becoming chief. Hoff didn't immediately return calls Monday.
During Kolomay's leave, "it's been pretty seamless up front," Bonk said of the administration.
Reflecting on his tenure, Kolomay highlighted his role in creating an alliance of neighboring fire agencies aimed at improving efficiencies and sharing resources. Since going live in February 2012, the group has established uniform procedures for battling fires instead of operating under their own guidelines.
"When the guys arrive at the scene, they know exactly what their role is," Bonk said.
Kolomay called his nearly 37 years firefighting "a good run" that almost matched the longevity of his father, a Chicago firefighter.
"I'm lucky to go that far," he said.