Retiring fire chief sees bright future for Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District

Retiring fire chief sees bright future for Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District

"Exciting" is the term Barrington Countryside Fire Protection District Fire Chief James Kreher has often used to describe his 45-year fire service career.

From the beginning, it was "exciting" to get on a fire truck and head out to a call as a young firefighter in Fox River Grove.

It was "exciting" to serve as deputy chief when the BCFPD began operations as a fully independent fire department in 2014.

And it's been "exciting" - and rewarding and humbling - to have led the organization as its chief for the past eight years.

"How many people get to be part of a new fire department?" Chief Kreher asked as he prepared to retire on May 15. He marvels at the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity he and his fellow BCFPD firefighters enjoyed.

More importantly, the department's sterling reputation throughout the community and among neighboring fire departments proves that its members took full advantage of that opportunity.

"Our success has been a team effort," Chief Kreher added. "Together, we have built a phenomenal department that is well-respected by our residents and firefighters in other communities. The future is truly bright for this organization."

'Blessed to serve'

Chief Kreher began his career with the Fox River Grove Fire Protection District in 1978 as a firefighter and rose steadily through the department's ranks: He served as chief engineer, lieutenant, captain, assistant chief, and deputy chief.

His broad base of experience and knowledge of the area proved appealing to BCFPD board members as they assembled a leadership team in 2013 to guide the new department's operations.

"The trustees felt that my experience with a neighboring department and multiple regional organizations would be helpful," Chief Kreher recalled. "I'm grateful for the opportunity. The past nine years have been a blessing."

Chief Kreher's career credentials extend beyond Fox River Grove and Barrington Countryside. He serves as president of the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance, is past president of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association and McHenry County Fire Chiefs Association, and is also past vice president of Mutual Aid Box Alarm System (MABAS) Division 5.

Teamwork delivers exceptional service

From its first day of independent operations (Jan. 1, 2014), the BCFPD has built an exceptional track record of providing fire/emergency medical services to residents and businesses within its 48-square-mile jurisdiction.

Specific department accomplishments of which Chief Kreher is most proud include:

• Improving the district's ISO rating. Bolstering service capabilities that earned a stronger rating by the Insurance Services Office (ISO) reflect a significant improvement in BCFPD capabilities. An improved ISO rating may help lower insurance rates paid by residents and businesses due to anticipated reductions in future fire-related property loss.

• Building a new fire station. Station 39, 1004 S. Hough St., in unincorporated Barrington, began operations in April 2022, and vastly improved response times to the entire district. In its first week alone, Station 39 crews successfully saved the lives of two patients who may not have survived if emergency responders were coming from the district's Lake Barrington or Barrington Hills stations.

• Creating a culture of service. "We have great people who are committed to taking care of the people and property in our district," Chief Kreher said. "We've established a strong foundation. The BCFPD is well-positioned for future success."

"The BCFPD would not be where it is today without Chief Kreher's leadership. His legacy is secure, and he leaves us well-positioned to continue building for the future," board President Keith Hanson said.

"On behalf of the board and our residents, we thank him for his service and wish him a long, fulfilling retirement."

'Nobody has been more blessed'

Chief Kreher's decision to retire comes with a multitude of emotions. He calls the fire service "one of the best jobs in the world," and feels fortunate to be able to retire in good health.

"Special thanks to my wife, Angie, and my family for their support all these years. I couldn't have done this without them," he said.

Nonetheless, he will miss the BCFPD and all that it has achieved in a short period of time.

"I hope all of you can have as a fulfilling career as I've had," he wrote to BCFPD personnel earlier this year when announcing his retirement. "Nobody has been more blessed. It has been an honor and privilege to serve with you.

"Thank you for everything you have done and always remember your job: Take care of the residents and visitors of our district, take care of your family and take care of our family here at BCFPD."

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