Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

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Rasch stepping down as Fire Chief

by Steve Targo

August 18, 2011

LINN — Tim Rasch sat behind the desk of his fire chief's office at the Hillside Road station with a piece of paper pinched between his fingers.

At the start of an interview about his recent decision to step down next year, he said he finds it difficult to talk about himself. Then, reading from the paper, Rasch spoke as he does at regular Town Board meetings about upcoming training programs or his department's budget.

This time, he was reporting stats on his own life — born in 1970, moved to Linn Township in 1992, joined the Linn Fire Department in 1995, became chief January 2004. Perhaps he needed it on paper so he could convey the correct personal information. Perhaps it simply helped him to talk about himself.

But once the conversation shifted to firefighting, his department and its future, Rasch had no difficulty.

"Everybody in this department does this because they want to serve their community," he said. "I've always had a desire to help people."

Then, there's his answer to why he decided not to seek re-election when his term expires Jan. 9, 2012. Twice, Rasch has told the Regional News he believes in term limits. It's the kind of thing politicians say, but in the Linn department, fire chiefs are elected to two-year terms.

On July 25, he also said it feels right to step down now. He said he wants to pursue personal and professional interests. One of them is helping his oldest son work on a house he bought in Hustisford.

However, he plans to stay in the area.

"God willing, I'm going to remain an active member of this department for as long as I can," Rasch said.

Twelve rules

One thing Rasch likely will be remembered for as chief of the Linn Fire and EMS Department is his flare for management. He's the type of person others refer to when they say, "act professional."

One thing Rasch and his fellow department members have in common is they all have an eye on the future.

"We spend a lot of time trying to look out the windshield rather than the rear view mirror," Rasch said.

He has a list of 12 management rules in a frame propped up on his desk. That is the only frame in his office which wasn't on the floor last month. He said the rest were down there because his office recently was painted, but "this is the only thing I pay attention to."

"I believe in every single one of them," Rasch said about the rules.

Why? One of them concerns employees. Rasch displays genuine admiration and concern for his fellow department members.

"You can never forget that's who does all the work, your people," he said.

Although Rasch doesn't step down for months, there already is a succession plan in place. Essentially, he said he will still be around to help whoever is the new chief.

According to Rasch, there is an "in-house" election to select a new chief, but that decision needs to be approved by the Linn Town Board. Typically, the process is the town's Protective Services Committee recommends a candidate to the board. Usually, it's the person who won the election.

While the department is steeped in tradition, it underwent some significant changes since Rasch became chief. The big one — merging the town's fire and EMS departments in 2006.

"I think it's really benefitted our group as a whole," he said. "Cross-training is important (and) we have done a better job responding to calls because we're cross-trained. We do a more effective job."

Another change is the Mutual Aid Box Alarm System, essentially an organizational tool concerning help from nearby departments for large fire calls.

"It used to be literally just mutual aid, where the (fire) commander either went through a written list or off the top of his head picked a department to help," Rasch said. "MABAS is pre-planned. It maps out a predetermined response to an incident. One of the things MABAS encourages is to not deplete the resources of departments around you."

Being a firefighter or EMT takes as much intelligence as it does heart, regardless of rank.

"We lose as much as we win because when someone calls 911, they're not having a good day," Rasch said. "But we've done as much as we can to provide them with assistance and to have a positive outcome for that call."

Rasch said the most important thing during his time as chief, one for which he is most grateful, is the understanding of his family and the families of department members. Linn firefighters and EMS members have missed time and sharing activities with these families. He said his fellow members help "make each other better."

"In most cases, without their support, none of what we do would be possible, and I as chief am truly grateful to all of them," Rasch said.

Being a fire chief is something you are 24-7, he said.

"It's just something that always exists in your mind," Rasch said. "We're really blessed to have a great group of people so I don't lay awake at night thinking about it too much, but I wouldn't say it's hard. It's just something always in your mind."

Although he said he enjoyed it, he added he's not sure he will miss it.

"The department is in good hands, no matter who would be chief," Rasch said. "I really believe I'm here to help people. That won't change whether I'm chief or not."

But he gave two pieces of advice to whoever takes his place. One is to be fiscally responsible with the budget. The other shouldn't be hard for any department member to follow.

"Look out that windshield, not the rear view mirror," Rasch said. "Think forward."