Dan Roeglin will miss the HFD brotherhoodRoeglin is a familiar face to many in Hudson. In addition to being a member of the HFD from 1985 to 2009, he headed up the City of Hudson Parks Department for more than 20 years from 1984 to 2005.
By: Meg Heaton, Hudson Star-Observer
Dan Roeglin almost didn’t attend last month’s Hudson Fire Department Annual Appreciation Dinner. He had, after all, retired from the department where he had served for 24 years in 2009 but he went because he wanted to see old friends. It was a good decision since his fellow firemen named him the Firefighter of the Year, the second time he has earned the honor.
Roeglin is a familiar face to many in Hudson. In addition to being a member of the HFD from 1985 to 2009, he headed up the City of Hudson Parks Department for more than 20 years from 1984 to 2005. He and his former wife, Barb, raised their three daughters here and he still lives in Hudson which is also close to his three, almost four, grandchildren. “It is home,” he says.
These days Roeglin works for Minnesota State Colleges and Universities as a Fire Service Specialist. In that capacity he consults with colleges and universities in the system about their fire service programs and also does consultation and training on campuses in Wisconsin like WITC. Between the parks department and his current job, Roeglin worked as a parks supervisor in Illinois and for FEMA following Hurricane Katrina.
Of his new career, “This is a great job, a real find for me and I am fortunate to work with some really good people.”
The fact that his new career is all about his volunteer passion is no accident. He first became a volunteer fireman in 1978 in the small community of Brillion, Ill. Within a year of moving to Hudson, he joined the Hudson department, being promoted to captain in 1990 and to assistant chief in 2001 to 2006. Throughout his time with the HFD he also acted as a fire investigator and says he will continue to assist the department as a volunteer when asked.
The 40-plus member Hudson Fire Department is a special group of people according to Roeglin and some of that has to do with the voluntary status of the force. Volunteer firemen are paid when they respond to an alarm but are on-call 24/7. Not everyone can respond to every fire but everyone gives it his best shot according to Roeglin.
He says there is a difference between full-time fire departments and the Hudson organization. “There’s a difference in the culture. When you’re full-time, you work with the same people every day. When you’re on-call, you work with whoever shows up. You take a look at who you have in the truck -- what their strengths and weaknesses are and you do what needs to be done.”
Roeglin says that is why the bond is so strong in the HFD. He describes it as a brotherhood. When he first joined that department in Illinois with some softball buddies, it was all about the adrenaline rush that came when responding to a call but that subsided over the years and was replaced by the feeling of being a part of a team that had a very important job to do.
His promotions over the years came along with confidence in not only his own abilities but his leadership skills as well. “For anyone in the department, it is about learning to work with all kinds of people and respecting their skills. I remember I did a little screaming at first but I realized I didn’t have to do that. If you do it right, they will respond.”
Roeglin said there is a special feeling that he gets when he steps back following a call and realizes that he and the five or more others on his team got the job done.
The job, volunteer or not, carries lots of risk but he says firefighters don’t think about that much except to keep themselves and each other safe as much as possible. He has been involved in fires and accidents involving injuries and major property damage and some stayed with him a long time. His most frightening moments came when he and firemen Tim McGee and Bill Wanner had to go to a third floor attic to put out a fire in the Zilz home on Orange Street. “That last flight up, we didn’t know what we would find or how stable it was but there was nothing to do but get it done.”
He also recalled a car fire that left a young boy, Scott Enloe, severely burned. He is glad to know that the now 20-something is doing well.
While they didn’t die on the job, the death of HFD brothers Dan Smith, Craig Wolff and Steve Ohrt hit him and the whole department hard. “It was an honor to work with those guys, with all of the people of this department. They are all good people.”
Roeglin said the community has always been very supportive of the fire department which means a lot to the members. When asked what the public might not realize about being a fireman, he said, “I don’t think they realize the amount of time we spend in addition to answering calls, time away from our families. There’s the special schools and training, and your family just has to do without once in a while. That can take a toll. It’s a sacrifice but it’s worth it.”
Roeglin said while he is no longer officially a member of the department, he will be available if he is needed. He says he has been fortunate to work under four excellent fire chiefs include Herb Frye, Dean Rossing, Brillion chief Jerry Martinson and current HFD Chief Jim Frye.
“I will miss it, miss the people but we’ll always be connected.”