For 38 years of his life, Fire Chief Dave Radel served the citizens of Hazelwood by responding to fire and medical emergencies. He grew up in the City of Hazelwood so he was very familiar with the community and loved living in North County. Many considered him a “hometown boy who did good.” Radel worked his way up the command ladder from an Arson Investigator to the Fire Chief of the Hazelwood Fire Department. Radel recently announced his retirement and chose January 31st as his last day on duty.
A few days ago, the City of Hazelwood hosted a retirement party held in his honor. In a brief speech he made to a large crowd of guests who came to give him their farewell wishes, Radel said, “It’s been one of the greatest honors of my life to be a member of the Hazelwood Fire Department. I consider myself indescribeably fortunate to have had a career that provides the blessing of service to my community.”
Radel started off his career as a Hazelwood firefighter in 1978 and was promoted to Fire Inspector four years later after completing the necessary college coursework. In 1986, he achieved certification to serve as a state licensed Arson Investigator and maintained this certification for the remainder of his career.
As a private, Radel liked being one of the guys and the other firefighters liked him too and were impressed with his leadership skills. In 1988, he was elected to represent members of the Hazelwood Fire Department as their Shop Steward under The International Association of Firefighters Local #2665. He continued in this capacity until he was promoted to Captain on August 8, 2001. In reference to retirement, Radel says coming to work every day and having fun conversations with the guys over a cup of coffee and joking around with them between fire/medical emergency calls will be missed. “The brotherhood and comradery from my brothers and sisters in the fire service will be my heart and soul for the rest of my life,” Radel noted.
While serving as Captain for six years, Radel and his crew received the City of Hazelwood’s Life Saving Award and two Unit Citation Awards from The Greater St. Louis Area Fire Chiefs Association for the rescues of multiple civilians from two residential fires. In May 2007, he was promoted to Deputy Fire Chief in charge of operations. After receiving his associates degree in Fire Service Management the following year, Radel was again promoted to Assistant Fire Chief with ret. Fire Chief Jim Matthies at the helm.
After Matthies announced his retirement, City officials thought it would be best to promote from within and to select someone who was well liked by the rank and file. Radel ended up being appointed as the new Fire Chief and has served in this capacity for the past five years. During this period, he earned his Bachelor of Science Degree in Fire Service Management from Lindenwood University, graduating magna cum laude.
Radel has been very proud of wearing the Fire Chief badge for the City of Hazelwood. “Whenever I walk down the aisle of a grocery store or any other public setting in my uniform, people make eye contact with me and then glance down at my badge and smile. Young and old, regardless of any other factor, that’s almost a universal response,” stated Radel.
According to Radel, “There is a presumption that because of what I do for a living I am a person of integrity and service. And, while I will miss that automatic response since I won’t be wearing a badge, I will strive to live up to that presumption for the rest of my life. Being the Fire Chief of Hazelwood was the best job in the world.”
Whoever is the Fire Chief of Hazelwood also serves as the City’s Emergency Management Response Director. While Radel was the Fire Chief, an EF2 tornado hit the Hazelwood area on April 10, 2013, and caused widespread damage to trees and homes throughout the area. Although the storm had a devastating impact on many residents and local businesses, Radel believes this incident gave Hazelwood’s municipal government a chance to shine and showcase its ability to work fast and bring immediate relief to the storm victims.
“When the EF2 tornado hit Hazelwood, every facet of our municipal family came together and provided an incredible level of services to our citizens. Police, fire, public works (including street division, code enforcement, parks and recreation), mayor, city council, city clerk, communications, IT and legal department of this City set aside their sometimes petty differences and joined forces for days on end to make sure that everyone impacted by the storm had every resource they needed at their disposal,” Radel said.
Radel says he will always remember the ride he took with Hazelwood Mayor Matthew Robinson to survey the damage. “It was about three o’clock in the morning, and I was driving the Mayor down some dark subdivision streets through the wreckage of trees and homes. We talked about what our game plan would be the next day and what we would say to the media. We also kidded each other about needing to get a couple of hours sleep before we hit the ground running again in the morning. In addition, we shared the fact that both of us have spent our entire lives in North County, and for the most part in Hazelwood,” Radel recalled.
The energy generated from all of Hazelwood’s municipal departments working together toward a common goal enhanced the clean-up efforts nd enabled the community to recover quickly. “It truly exemplified the attainment of the best of us and what we should be as a government of and for the people. Every department and every one of us should never forget this because at our very best that’s who we are,” Radel said.
Hazelwood city officials wish to extend their sincere good wishes for a happy retirement for ret. Fire Chief Dave Radel with his family as they travel through the National Park system and go on camping/kayaking trips along the great streams of the Missouri Ozarks.