After climbing to the top of the career ladder, Dodge City Fire Chief Robert Heinz will celebrate his retirement with a public reception in his honor from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 17, at the Santa Fe Depot, 101 E. Wyatt Earp Blvd.
Heinz, 55, served the city in every capacity available to Dodge City firefighters since he took the entrance test in 1985. And while the chief of three years still feels like "one of the guys," he admits he doesn’t feel like worrying anymore.
"I missed a lot of my kids’ ball games because I was on call," he said. "I won’t miss my grandkids’ games."
Heinz’s legacy is the training facility he commissioned the construction of in 2016, with the closing of the old city pool.
In its wake now sits a permanent structure Heinz expanded to dedicate entirely to the continual and dynamic training required of today’s firefighters.
"It was something we’ve needed for years and will be here for years to come," Heinz said.
Contained within the thick cinder-block building is a three-story smoke maze with moveable staircases, a CPR classroom, and enough space for the recreation of a full-scale house filled with "everything that would be obstacles in real life."
Heinz said there is no limit to what the men and women of the Dodge City Fire Department can do with the training facility.
Department training was relegated to other places around town before the reappropriation of the building.
And because of the destructive nature of that training, Heinz said, the civil servants were not necessarily invited back with open arms.
Off-site training was neither popular with those who occasionally played host to the firefighters, nor was it efficient, he said. The whole fleet of firetrucks had to be driven to and from each training site every time a training was scheduled.
"And we have to practice all the time," he said. "You’re only as good as you practice."
Heinz said he is looking forward to practicing vacation.
"Since I became chief I haven’t had the opportunity to get away," he said. "I’m going to take the kids to Disney World."
And while he said he and his wife have even more travel plans, the No. 1 plan is to stay in Dodge City for the rest of his life.
"Since I started here, Dodge has grown leaps and bounds," he said. "In my heart I still think of Dodge as a small farming community. It’s home. It’s all I know."
Third-generation Dodge City firefighter Ken Spencer will step into the office following Heinz’s departure.
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