Chief Matthies played a key role introducing the “quint concept” to Hazelwood. He replaced the fire department’s trucks with aerial/pumper apparatus, which improved functionality without increasing personnel or operating costs. In 2004, he was responsible for starting a paramedic ambulance service in the fire department. Before then, the HFD contracted its EMS ambulance services with Christian NW Hospital. This upgrade in HFD services has produced outstanding results in reducing response time to emergency medical calls and maintaining the department’s financial self sufficiency.
Other HFD accomplishments under Chief Matthies’ watch include being the first in North County to install and bring online heart monitors and defibrillators capable of transmitting 12-lead EKGs to cath labs at SSM DePaul Health Center and other medical facilities for heart attack victims. Also, the EMS division is one of only 14 ambulance services in the St. Louis area and one of 47 statewide to earn EMSC state certification, which means Hazelwood’s EMS firefighter/paramedics have the equipment and training necessary to treat child trauma and injuries.
Another distinction that sets the HFD apart from other County fire departments is its Fire Insurance Rating of Class 3. This classification has produced insurance cost savings for residents and businesses alike in the City. Only three fire departments in the metro area can display this rating and just a handful throughout the state.
According to Chief Matthies, “It’s been an honor for me to serve the HFD for 26 years, including the last 18 as the department’s Fire Chief. Any success I’ve achieved is due to the effective teamwork of the firefighters, paramedics, professional staff and administrative assistants I’ve had the privilege to work with over the years. No achievement is possible without the input from a lot of hard-working people.”
Chief Matthies began his career in Harvey, Ill., after serving four years in the U.S. Air Force. He became a licensed paramedic and later accepted a promotion to lieutenant after 8 years. His background included being an arson investigator and working for the city’s detective bureau on his off days. In addition, he worked as a police paramedic for the City of South Holland for five years. As a fire lieutenant, he was responsible for supervising one of the department’s four stations.
In 1980, he accepted a position in Blue Springs, Mo., as Deputy Fire Chief of the Central Jackson County Fire Protection District. He also served as the Emergency Management Director and developed the first non-county, multi-city, emergency management agency in the state. In 1985, he accepted the position as Hazelwood’s Assistant Fire Chief and assumed the responsibility of Emergency Management Director. Eight years later, he was promoted to the position of Fire Chief.
Chief Matthies has been a strong advocate for higher education. He earned an Associate degree and later a Bachelor degree in Fire Technology and Fire Administration. He also has a Masters degree in management. In addition, he completed course work in the Executive Fire Officers program at the National Fire Academy at Emmitsburg, Md.
In 1990, Chief Matthies was certified as one of only two Level Four Fire Service instructors in the state of Missouri at that time. Plus, he has served as an adjunct instructor at St. Louis Community College – Florissant Valley and the St. Louis County Fire Academy.
Chief Matthies’ community activities include serving in organizations such as the Rotary Club Board, Father Dunn’s Boys Club, the American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars. He and his wife, Debbie, have been residents of the community for many years. Together, they have four children and five grandchildren.