Concord fire chief to retire after 40 years in fire service

  • Concord Fire Chief Dan Andrus stands in front of the Tower One truck as it was putting up Christmas lights at the Central Fire Station in Concord on Dec. 5. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

  • Concord Fire Chief Dan Andrus inside the Tower One truck at the Central Fire Station in Concord on Thursday, December 5, 2019. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord Fire Chief Dan Andrus walks over after turning on the lights of the Tower One truck that was putting up the Christmas lights at the Central Fire Station on Thursday. Andrus prepares to sign off for the final time Dec. 20. GEOFF FORESTER / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 12/8/2019 3:04:30 PM

As a boy, Dan Andrus was fascinated by everything from architecture to medicine to journalism. So when it came to deciding on a career path, his head swam with possibilities.

Despite his vast interests, though, one profession seemed to stand out above the others – fire service.

“My father was on the Salt Lake City Fire Department for 30 years,” Andrus, of Bow, said during a recent interview at Concord’s Central Fire Station. “I certainly got this passion at an early age for doing what my dad did. Anyone who knew me in high school will tell you I was enthusiastic about fire service.”

Andrus attended recruit school for firefighters in 1979 and, as the old adage goes, the rest is history. Forty years later, the Concord fire chief is proud to reflect on his years of service, both in Salt Lake City and in Concord, where he has spent the last 11 years of his career.

This month will be particularly bittersweet as he prepares to sign off for the final time on Dec. 20. It’s simply time, he said, to begin a new chapter.

“I have a lifetime of satisfaction to look back on but I have some new stuff to do to. Exactly what that is, I’ll be eager to find out,” Andrus said with a smile.

He admits that he is not ready to retire from work altogether and is looking for opportunities in health care, including mental health services, and juvenile justice. Andrus cited the city’s work with Riverbend Community Mental Health, as well as his individual service on the board of trustees for the Concord Regional Visiting Nurse Association as important partnerships that have influenced his next steps.

While responding to fires is a critical aspect of any firefighters’ job, those calls are far more infrequent than the medical calls and health emergencies that the department’s first responders handle on an often daily basis. Andrus said fire service has evolved into so much more than it once was when he began 40 years ago, and that the training required to do the job is far more complex.

In the first 11 months of 2019, the city’s fire department has responded to more than 8,000 calls. Of those calls, just over 130 were fire-related, while more than 5,700 were for medical emergencies.

While the department’s call volume has increased during Andrus’s tenure, staffing levels have actually decreased. Andrus said the department employs 100 people whereas when he started 11 years ago there were 117 on staff.

In a recent interview, Andrus acknowledged the inherent challenges of responding to 25% more calls with fewer resources. However, he was quick to shift perspectives and commend the firefighters and paramedics who have put in the hard work to make the department stronger than ever.

He said he will be stepping down on Dec. 20 knowing that the future of the department is in very capable hands. Exactly who will take over as chief is not yet known but Andrus said he is excited to find out along with everyone else when the city manager makes an announcement.

“Our firefighters, all the way on up to our deputy chiefs, are the most talented group,” Andrus said. “I’m anxious to see what’s next for the department.”

Just as the decision to retire was a bittersweet one, Andrus said the memories he carries with him from his decades of service generate both smiles and tears.

One of those difficult calls came four years ago in Concord’s West End. Firefighters responded on Dec. 4, 2015, to a fatal fire at 96 Rumford St., where Kevin Curdie lost his life. Curdie, who was known as the keeper of the West End, was found in a first-floor apartment shortly after 3 a.m. There was no working smoking detector in his room, fire officials said at the time.

Andrus said he knew Curdie as did so many others in the city.

“Those moments touch you,” he said. “It’s in those moments that our first responders show the greatest compassion and strength.”

While serving in Salt Lake City in 1992, Andrus said, the department responded to a fatal fire where the victim was a 4-year-old boy. He recalled that the boy’s mother had lit a candle at night in the boy’s room because seeing the flickering light helped him fall asleep. But that night the candle tipped over.

“I had to pass the house every day going to the gym,” Andrus said. “There was never a time I passed it that I didn’t feel a tug on my heart.”

He said he often wondered about the family and how they had moved on after that tragic night. A phone call he received about five years ago as Concord’s chief helped him finally answer that question.

A secretary at the fire department in Salt Lake City called him to ask about the fire in 1992 and if he remembered it. She wanted him to know that the sister of the little boy is now a career firefighter just outside the city.

“What she saw that night made her want to pursue a career in fire service,” Andrus said. “I was really fortunate to hear that story and so thankful.”

Just as he had dreamed of joining the fire service as a young boy eager to follow in his father’s footsteps, this young girl had found her calling by watching Andrus and the other first responders on that tragic night.

Andrus said it is the personal stories and the kind letters written to him over the years that he will remember most fondly as he begins a new chapter.

“I am leaving with an immense sense of satisfaction and a tremendous sense of gratitude,” Andrus said. “I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have served the Concord community and the people here. It will always be my home.”

(Alyssa Dandrea can be reached at 369-3319 or at adandrea@cmonitor.com.)


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