Hood River’s new fire chief has been busy the last two weeks meeting emergency responders throughout the Gorge — and he is thoroughly impressed with the warm welcome he has received.
“I’ve found acceptance rather quickly and everyone has been friendly and receptive,” said Greg Hoeger, who arrived from the City of Sacramento Fire Department on March 1. He replaces Gary Willis, who stepped down to devote his full-time energy to the family’s pear industry.
Hoeger, 52, is a second generation firefighter who is familiar with all aspects of the job. He followed in his father’s footsteps, who also served in Sacramento, and took up the challenge of public safety in a department that included more than 500 other firefighters, eventually working his way up to assistant fire marshal.
“I think I was brought up on it, there was always the smell of smoke in our house,” said Hoeger, who will now oversee 15 volunteers and 13 staffers.
He said although it was difficult to leave family (including four grown children) and friends behind, both he and his wife, Angela, were excited about living in a city with “no graffiti, clean streets and friendly people.” They were especially thrilled with the opportunity to raise their youngest daughter, Alexandra, 5, in a “hometown” environment.
Although the rural department is small, Hoeger said he is impressed with the dedication of the personnel and the high skill levels that are reflective of Willis’ emphasis on training.
“What I have found here is that everyone on the fire department is enthusiastic about their work. They are here because they want to be,” said Hoeger.
Because of Hoeger’s experience in all aspects of firefighting, including administration, Lynn Guenther, city manager, said he was chosen from 12 other applicants for the position that pays a $65,000 annual salary.
Hoeger said he doesn’t intend to make any changes to the fire department’s operations until he has thoroughly learned the system.
He describes his management style as “inclusive” and plans to include input from his personnel in decision-making and allow each individual to acquire a field of expertise.