Elgin fire chief taking new job in North Carolina
Elgin Fire Chief Dave Schmidt grew up in a firehouse, hanging around where his father worked as a battalion chief in Rolling Meadows.
"I knew this (firefighting) is what I wanted to do," the 53-year-old said Friday, the day after he announced he was retiring.
Schmidt will leave Elgin Jan. 3 after 30 years with the department and start a new job Jan. 6 as chief of the Carrboro, North Carolina, fire department.
"The Elgin community and organization have greatly benefitted from Chief Schmidt's 30 years of service, particularly during his three years as fire chief," City Manager Rick Kozal said in a prepared statement. "The progressive operational and technical efficiencies Chief Schmidt implemented while leading the department will remain a hallmark of his tenure."
Schmidt became a lieutenant in 2000, captain in 2005 and assistant chief of operations in 2011.
"I wanted to be somewhere big," Schmidt said of his decision to apply for the Elgin job. "Elgin has been very exciting."
He is particularly proud of the changes in technology he helped implement.
When he started, he said, he was teaching firefighters what a personal computer was and how to use it. Now all Elgin fire vehicles -- including ambulances and fire trucks -- are equipped with mobile computers and Wi-Fi hot spots. Cardiac monitors, for example, can send reports wirelessly to paramedics' tablets for importation into reports rather than having to print out long strips of paper that would be taped to a piece of copy paper.
"It is just incredible how the technology has exploded and improved in our craft," he said.
Asked for an example of how he learned from a bad call, Schmidt recalled the April 2001 mass shooting at JB's Pub, in which a man shot 18 people, killing two of them. Schmidt's ambulance was the second on the scene and ended up taking the shooter to a hospital for treatment.
"But out of that (situation) grew our active-shooter response (training) with police," Schmidt said.
Both departments recognized that emergency scenes were changing, and that it behooved police officers and firefighters to have a coordinated response.
He is also proud of his 15 years of work with the department's academy, which trained firefighters for Elgin and other cities.
"I believe we are the best fire department in the region," Schmidt said.