After dedicating 30 years of service to the Jacksonville Fire Department, Chief Rick Kluge is stepping down at the end of the month.
Kluge, a Jacksonville native, says when he started working for the local fire department in 1984, his goal was to work as a firefighter for 30 years. When he hit his 30 year anniversary recently, Kluge felt it was finally time to retire.
Kluge spoke about what it was like to work as rookie in the fire department.
“Starting out as a young kid you don’t know anything and you go through a lot of training and get proficient with the job,” says Kluge.
“The last person that was here at the department when I started was the previous chief, and they are all gone now. My first day they put my out in the parking lot, gave me a hose line and had me put on an air pack. The thing that has changed over the years is that back then when we had a fire I knew I was going to be in the fire, with very little training. Today, I couldn’t take a new guy off the street, put him gear and tell him we have a fire and you’re going in the door.”
Kluge notes that the faces in the community over the years have changed and so has the fire department. He says firefighters are using newer equipment, driving improved fire trucks and receiving better training than when he began as a firefighter.
Jacksonville Mayor Andy Ezard commented on Kluge’s retirement and talked about when the announcement of the next chief will be.
“We hate to lose Chief Kluge because he has been a great chief, but I understand with 30 years of service it is time for him to have some fun,” says Ezard.
“I will be interviewing the two candidates on Thursday and selecting one of those captains to take Chief Kluge’s place. At the next council meeting the new fire chief will be in place and I will introduce him to the council.”
Speaking of the next chief, Kluge says he hopes the person selected will continue the tradition of having an active role in the community.
“I wanted to always be the person that was out there in the city and for everyone to know who the chief was at the fire department,” says Kluge.
“I always wanted to be out there in the public, meet with the public, do fire prevention and things like that. I hope that continues, where the next chief is out there in the public letting everyone know this is us and this is what we do. As chief, you are kind of the face of the department.”
A retirement party will be held for Kluge at the Jacksonville Municipal Building on October 31. The public is welcome to attend.