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Baer retires as DL Fire chief, Flynn to lead department

Twenty years ago, Dave Baer was managing the Pizza Hut in Detroit Lakes. A man who washed the windows at the Washington Square Mall, and was also a firefighter in town, mentioned to Baer that the department was hiring firefighters and that he should apply.

“All it took was him to ask,” Baer said.

Until then, Baer said he didn’t have a single thought of serving on the volunteer fire department. But he gave it a try, went through the testing and made it into the department.He said he decided to join “just to help out in the community, to serve and give back.”

Now, 20 years later, he’s retired from the department as of Jan. 1, and his assistant chief Scott Flynn has stepped up as chief.

While still working at Pizza Hut, Baer said he was so close to the fire hall that he made it on the truck almost every call.

“I got a lot of experience in the first few years,” he said.

He hasn’t had to drive far the last few years to make calls either since his business, Markuson Baer Insurance, is located in the Wells Fargo building.

But that experience in his rookie years grew into a passion for his chosen volunteer position in the community.

“I absolutely love it,” he said of firefighting. “But there comes a time where your time is being pulled in different directions.”

He and his wife, Denise, have one child left at home, and while Baer thought about going another three-year term as chief, he decided to retire so he wouldn’t miss out on any more of his family’s events.

He said there has been ice fishing, hunting and sporting events he’s had to miss out on with his family over the last three years as chief. Even having the ability to just run to Fargo without having someone else lined up to fill in for him if he’s gone with a call comes in.

“I want that back,” he said of the freedom.

That’s not to say that he would take back his time on the fire department or as fire chief, either. It’s been an enjoyable ride.

A ride that’s been a little crazy as his tenure comes to an end. December has had a high volume of calls — not to mention a couple odd ones to go along with the fires and rescue calls — making him not necessarily regret his choice to retire.

He said the department had somewhere around 27-28 calls as of Dec. 30 — he was hoping Monday for no major incidents on his last couple days — which is nearly 15 percent of the 200-plus calls they received all year.

Baer said another factor that made his decision to retire at the end of the year was the fact that he had firefighters willing to step up into the chief, assistant chief and deputy chief positions.

He said he has lots of good memories of his time on the department, and plenty of bad ones to go along with the job as well.

“The events we have,” he said as his best memories. “We’re one big family down there.”

Not only have the firefighters become close, their families have as well. He said it was fun that all their kids grew up together.

As for the bad side of the job, “you remember every car accident, whether it’s a fatality or not.”

He added that he still drives by places where accidents have happened in the past and can still picture the accident.

“But there’s still that satisfaction of knowing we probably saved some people.”\

Though he’ll no longer serve on the fire department, that doesn’t mean Baer won’t be down at the hall some Wednesday nights to hang out with the crew during their meetings. He said there are other retired firefighters that come back to shoot the breeze, and he plans to be one of them.

What he won’t miss though are the calls at 3 a.m. when it’s 24 degrees below zero outside.

“I have enjoyed every minute of it, but I will probably enjoy every minute of not going, too.”

The Detroit Lakes Fire Department has a few more openings for volunteer members. Applications can be obtained through the City of Detroit Lakes.

The new chief

When Scott Flynn became a firefighter 20 years ago, he never dreamed he would one day be chief. That changed on Jan. 1 when he was named chief of the Detroit Lakes Fire Department.Flynn, who served two years on the Audubon Fire Department before moving to Detroit Lakes and joining that department 18 years ago, said there isn’t a standout reason why he became a firefighter in the first place.

“Just friends on area departments said it would be a good fit,” he said.

And 20 years later, they must have been right. “I enjoy it a lot,” he said.

Like most fire fighters, it isn’t necessarily about the job but more about the guys on the department that make it such a memorable and worthwhile community service to stick with for years.

“The camaraderie of all the guys and the families. It’s a tight-knit group,” he said is his favorite part of being on the volunteer fire department. “And giving back to the community,” he added.

Flynn, who works at Wold’s RV Sales when he’s not fighting fires, has worked his way up the ladder, so to speak, at the fire department serving as captain then deputy chief and then as Baer’s assistant chief. When Baer decided to retire, it was a natural step for Flynn to take over as chief.

His assistant chief is now Todd George, and Ryan Swanson is deputy chief.

“Thank you to Dave and his 20-plus years and for a good job. Hopefully I can fill his shoes,” Flynn said.

He added that the department is still looking for a few good recruits to join the department to cover past and upcoming retirements. Anyone interested can get applications through the City of Detroit Lakes either online or at city hall.

Follow Pippi Mayfield on Twitter at @PippiMayfield.