McGreal sworn in as Wheeling's new fire chief

Mike McGreal was sworn in Monday as Wheeling's new fire chief, minus the public ceremony that typically occurs for such milestones in a village hall packed with supportive friends, family and colleagues.

Due to the need for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, McGreal was sworn in by Wheeling's clerk near the flagpole outside village hall. McGreal, 57, replaces Keith MacIsaac, who retired last week after 30 years as Wheeling's fire chief.

McGreal previously was with the Wilmette Fire Department, retiring as chief there in 2017 before joining Wheeling later that year. He was Wheeling's deputy fire chief before his elevation to the top post Monday.

"I can't say enough about the men and women I work with here," McGreal said. "They made me feel welcome the minute I walked in here."

Village Manager Jon Sfondilis said while MacIsaac's long and successful tenure "leaves big boots to fill," McGreal has shown the wisdom and expertise to maintain the fire department's excellence.

"It's been a pleasure to work with Mike for the past three years," Sfondilis said, "and I look forward to continuing to do so as he assumes his new leadership role."

McGreal has expertise in several facets of public safety, including fire prevention and technical rescue. His credentials include certification as a chief fire officer by the National Fire Academy, the Illinois state fire marshal and the Center for Public Safety Excellence.

A second-generation firefighter, McGreal's father served with the Chicago Fire Department for 36 years. He said he spent 29 years with Wilmette, working his way up to deputy fire chief and then chief for 3½ years before deciding the time was right to retire and hand the department to new leadership.

McGreal, an avid sailor who has made four solo crossings of Lake Michigan, said he came to Wheeling in 2017 to assist MacIsaac in a succession plan. He started in fire service 33 years ago.

"I've got some juice left in the tank," he said with a laugh.

McGreal said it's hoped he'll eventually get to take the oath of office in a public ceremony. He and his wife live in Northbrook and are the parents of three grown children.

Wheeling has had only three fire chiefs since 1969. That's when Bernie Koeppen became the village's first full-time fire chief, followed by MacIsaac 30 years ago and now McGreal.

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Wheeling Fire Chief Keith MacIsaac retired after 30 years Friday and has been replaced by Mike McGreal. Here, he talks to the media as rescue workers attempt to remove a man trapped in a tank at a business in Wheeling in 2012. Daily Herald file photo, 2012
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