Newspaper Archive of
Beverly Hills Weekly
Beverly Hills, California
February 11, 2016     Beverly Hills Weekly
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February 11, 2016

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~Y CHIEF DELL CELEBRATES 30 YEARS WITH BH FIRE But how has the department changed over the years? By Mina Fliazi You celebrated your 30th anniversary with the BHFD yesterday. What has changed most about being a firefight- er over the past three decades? First of all, we have fewer fires today than we did when I got here in 1986, which is a great thing. One of the reasons that the fires are not as big as they once were--even though we do have fires occasionally--is that all of our proper- ties, new construction, both residential and commercial use, have been required to install fire sprinklers since 1989, so the fires don't get very big even when we have fires. Then there are other areas in the safety world that we're involved in now-- [like] urban search and res- cue-which weren't really even thought of back in 1986. Our paramedic program has expanded tremendously and we have 27 paramedics total, or nine a day. When I got here, we had 12 paramedics, or four a day. Things like that have changed. And now we're in a world that's con- fronted with terrorism, both nationally and internationally. So when we say it's a fire department--yes, we still respond to fires and we still extinguish fires--but we have so many other things that we're responsible for and have to be proficient at compared to 30 years ago. Wildfires are much more detrimental, or so it seems, today than they were 30 years ago. The wildland urban interface is a significant problem that we deal with. It used to be that we had a fire season, now it seems like brushfire season is all year long. How has the department changed over the years? When I first arrived, we were just transitioning from a department where the firefighters came here and really all they did was that firefighting aspect. One thing that hasn't changed is the sup- port of the community, the City Council and the business community. Today, what we're confronted with is we have a very aging population, not only in our country, but in the fire department. We're transitioning from a relatively old or tenured fire department to a newer one--we've hired 30 new people in the last five years and we anticipate hiring another 15 or so in the next four-to-five years. So we're going from people who have a significant amount of time on the job to a much younger department, and it will take time to get them up to that same level. What characteristics define a success- ful firefighter? Successful firefighters are committed to a cause; they have a dedication not only to the community that they serve, but to their fellow firefighters; they have a true desire to help people. It's like a calling: you either like being around people and helping people, or you don't. So if you fall into the category of really liking people and wanting to make a difference in people's lives, you can become an out- standing firefight- er. We have many, many of those types of people in the Beverly Hills Fire Department. They are tremen- dously talented, compassionate and empathetic people. Ralph and Donna Mundell provide service to a ride to the hospital; even though they may not need to go, but they want to go, because they're going to feel better by going to the hospital. We will stand by and wait for family mem- bers to get there so that the person that we're serving feels better because their family is going to be there. We will pick people up that we see walking on the "When we say it's street--whether it be an elderly per- son or somebody that might look like they're out of place a fire department-- and we'll stop and ask them, "Hey, yes, we still respond is there something to fires and we still extinguish fires--but we have so many other things that we're responsible for and have to be proficient at compared to 30 Who hired you into the depart- ment? I was hired by Fire Chief Bill Daley on February 10, 1986. I refer to him as Bill because we're very much friends now; he was an indi- vidual that I really looked up to. He was the fire chief when I obviously was hired and he was also the fire chief when I was the Firefighters' Association President. He taught me a lot about customer ser- vice and a tremendous amount about making sure that you promote the fire department and not yourself. years ago. What sets apart the BHFD from other fire departments? I think the significant difference between the philosophy of the Beverly Hills Fire Department and many other fire departments is that sense of out- standing and exceptional customer ser- vice. We will offer anyone that we that we can do to help you?" Not only do we pro- vide that service, but we want to go the extra mile for the people that we service. What's a recent example of BHFD personnel going the extra mile? There was a gen- tleman who was at a restaurant having dinner with one of his friends when the friend noticed that the gentleman didn't look quite right. The friend called us and we responded and thoroughly evaluated the patient for any health issues. The patient said he didn't want us to do anything, but it would be nice if we could give him a ride home. Once we determined that they didn't have any medical issues that required us to transport the person to the hospital, we took the person home and made sure that they got in and were comfortable. The best example of a situation [where BHFD personnel went the extra mile] occurred about 10 years ago. Our crews responded to a home north of Santa Monica Boulevard and found an elderly couple. The gentleman was very ill and was transported to the hospital and when they were asking the lady what was going on, [they noticed] that it was an older home, and although cleanly maintained, it had older fixtures. Our personnel wanted to make sure that she was going to be alright and have suf- ficient food to sustain her for the next couple of days because her husband was going to be in the hospital. The next morning, our paramedics were off duty and going home and they went to the grocery store and bought a bag of groceries, bought sane breakfast items and made her breakfast and left her there with wholesome foods so she could have it for the next couple of days. I learned about it three or four days later because the paramedics that did that never told anybody. Those are the types of people that we have in the Beverly Hills Fire Department. Tell us about your family. My wife Donna and I will have been married for 30 years in March. Our older son, Ralph, who we refer to as R J, is 24 years old and a firefighter in the Burbank fire department. Our younger son, Brian, is 21 years old and a baseball player in the Colorado Rockies organization. What advice do you have for BHFD candidates? What I recommend to them is to go to college, and if they're in college, to remain in college and get their bach- elor's degree. In conjunction with that, we require them to be of good character. We realize that people make mistakes along the way--we all have and we all continue to make mistakes. But if you make a mistake, recognize your mistake, don't do it again and when somebody asks you about it, admit to your mistake. Also, continue to be dedicated to this place and this profession once you are hired, because it's the greatest career there ever was. February 11- February 17, 2016 Page 7