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Hoffman leaving Park Rapids Fire Department

Donn Hoffman

Fire Chief Donn Hoffman is retiring after 30 years with the Park Rapids Fire Department.

On Oct. 4, Hoffman submitted a letter of intent to city staff, announcing that he will step down both as chief and as a firefighter effective Jan. 2, 2019. A vote to accept his resignation is slated for the Park Rapids City Council's Tuesday, Oct. 23 meeting.

In his letter, Hoffman said, "This decision was based on the fact I no longer feel I have the energy, dedication and commitment" to fulfill the responsibilities of fire chief.

"I have been a firefighter with this department for 30 years, serving under three chiefs," Hoffman wrote. "I was an officer for 27 of those. In my time with this department, I have many accomplishments to be proud of. This is the best and most dedicated organization I have had the blessing to be a part of."

Reached by phone on Thursday, Hoffman said, "I feel that it's time for me to leave. I'm not a young guy anymore."

Hoffman joined the department as a volunteer firefighter in August 1987. Three years later, he became a training officer, and was promoted to assistant chief during his sixth year of active duty. Serving under previous fire chiefs Dick Harsha, Al Czeczok and Randy McFarren, he has been fire chief since January 2007.

Outside the fire department, Hoffman has worked for many years as an electrician and started his own business, Hoffman Electric, in 1997. Nevertheless, he described the fire chief position as a full-time job. "The chief has a lot of duties," he said.

He said his fondest memory of his firefighting career will be the people. "We have a fantastic organization," he said.

Currently, there are 26 firefighters with the department. Assistant chiefs are Terry Long and Ben Cumber.

"Donny's a good guy to work with," said Long. "He has worked very hard and put a lot of dedication into the fire department. I've learned a lot from Donny. Anybody who has been here this long, I hate to see him leave. I understand, and I wish him well."

Asked for his reaction to the news, Cumber joked, "I'm against his retirement. I told him that five years ago. I've been trying to drag him along as much as I can, but he's had enough, finally."

On a more serious note, Cumber said Hoffman has "always done a fantastic job. Being a chief is a lot more work than most people think it is. There are so many meetings, and paperwork — he's always done a great job with that. He was always really good at letting the assistant chiefs do their jobs on fires, too. I liked that about him."

Hoffman said the next fire chief will be nominated and elected at the department's annual business meeting on Jan. 2, subject to approval by the city council.

Hoffman called firefighting "one of the best experiences of my life," adding, "I would recommend it to anybody who has the opportunity."