New Walkertown fire chief

February 26, 2019

After the retirement of longtime serving Fire Chief Wesley Hutchins, Daren Ziglar was voted in as the new chief for the Walkertown Fire Department.
Ziglar first joined the WFD in 1984 at the age of 14 as a cadet. He was also the first in his family to go into fire service. Not long after that, his family joined him.
He explained that in 1989, after his father retired from AT&T, he joined as an EMT. Later, his mom and wife became involved in the Ladies Auxiliary, and now his son David is a captain with the department.
After volunteering as a firefighter with the WFD, Ziglar was promoted and served as a lieutenant for eight years in the 1990s, 12 years as a captain and three years as the assistant chief.
Ziglar said the WFD has had good, steady leadership since the department started in 1953.
“There have only been seven chiefs, and now eight, and only three chiefs since 1989,” he said.
Ziglar was drawn to the fire service after several men in the fire service from his church pushed him toward the field.
“I became a paramedic for the county, which I did for 30 years until I retired in 2018 as the assistant chief of Emergency Services,” he said, noting that he volunteered for the WFD during this time and is now part of the Life Star Emergency Services.
Ziglar said his most proud moment with the WFD is that his whole family has been involved.
“This thing becomes part of our life,” he remarked. “It was time to slow down, but this was a good opportunity. There is a lot of extra work and responsibility as the chief, a commitment for (my wife and I), but it’s part of my life.”
As chief, Ziglar said he has a lot of people depending on him and it’s his job to make sure they go home at the end of the day.
In his new role, Ziglar said he hopes to get more involved with the community and grow the department’s membership. He noted that since he started in January, they have taken in eight new members, six of which have been junior firefighters who are part of the Walkertown High School’s Fire Academy.
“The partnership we have with the Fire Academy has been a good relationship,” he said. “We help them get those last few classes and we like to see their energy.”
Ziglar explained that the fire department has an age gap.
“We’re missing a generation in the fire service, ages 25 – 40,” he said. “We’ve had to adapt to meet the needs of a new generation, but we’re getting new members. It’s a commitment – we’re asking them to commit a lot.”
In order to be a firefighter, Ziglar said they have to put in 36 hours a year minimum, even for the volunteers.
“It’s a sacrifice. They have to give up a lot of time from home to come here. We try to make it a true extended family and that’s what we have to offer,” he remarked. “Having these younger guys helps us old guys feel young again.”
Making their day room more comfortable is something else Ziglar said they are doing to help make things more comfortable for the firefighters at the WFD.
Ziglar shared what he enjoys about the fire service.
“I enjoy being around folks who get that life is more than about yourself, it’s more about caring about their community and the people they serve and wanting to make it a better place,” he said. “We get 900 – 1,000 calls a year, which is almost three a day. Seventy-five percent of what we do is EMS assists or medical calls, and we are fortunate to have an ambulance here.”
Ziglar said there are three things that make a department successful: staff, calls, and the structure and support that bring it all together.
“Being in this department, it becomes part of your life. You want what’s best for your community, your department and the people in it,” he stated. “We have a Board of Directors that is very supportive and having that support is a big help. The fire service is the truest team effort and it takes everyone doing their best to make it work.”
In total, the WFD has 53 members, which include paid and volunteer members, as well as officers and EMTs.
Ziglar encourages anyone who is interested in becoming a member to call the department or stop by to see what is involved and if it is something they would like to pursue.
“It’s a great way to look into a new career, and we take members as young as 14,” he said.
For more information about the WFD or to see information about public education and updates, visit them on Facebook, www.facebook.com/WalkertownFire, and Twitter.

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