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Chief Campbell retires after 11 years as Teton County Fire Chief, Dec 15, 2021

Born and raised in Teton Valley, Campbell is best described as an everyman hero. A person with an unwavering passion for what he does, only matched by his natural, casual humility.

“You fall in love with it, and you’re driven to help other people,” said Campbell. “You’re motivated, and one thing leads to the next. You live together, you work together, you face some dangerous and trying challenges and you just bond and come together.”  Campbell started his volunteer career in Chubbuck, ID, in 1992. While there he also completed a college residency program through Idaho State University. Campbell graduated with expertise in many different aspects of firefighting, having a dual-degree bachelor’s in adult education, with components of fire studies and business. Campbell also possesses an AAS in fire sciences. His education had set him apart from many others looking for a career in firefighting. “Just getting hired full time is very difficult because it’s so competitive and there are so few jobs,” said Campbell. There are two main ways to get into the fire service, with the easiest being through a civil service test that will put you on the ground floor of a career.Campbell used his education and qualifications to take the other route, starting at Chubbuck FD as a captain and training officer.After being involved at CFD from 1992 to 2005, Campbell made the most out of a chance to come back home to Teton Valley.He started his tenure at Teton County Fire & Rescue as the deputy chief and fire marshal to the late Chief Mike Hoyle, who retired in 2011. Campbell then became fire chief.One of Campbell’s greatest assets was his ability to train and mentor his crews. He has been a certified Idaho Fire Instructor for 24 years.“I definitely enjoyed training,” said Campbell. “I don’t know how many firefighters I’ve trained over the years, and many of them have gone on to have full-time careers. ”Working with Campbell has always been a two-way street, and he has always been more than happy to not only give tips to others as well as receive them himself. “There’s so much opportunity to learn from each other and to support one another,” said Campbell. “The one thing about the whole emergency services career is that there’s always more to learn. We got a really good firefighting family here and it is diverse, and diverse in our backgrounds. It’s impossible to know everything in the fire service, people have strengths, and everybody contributes. ”Perhaps one of Campbell’s greatest achievements as chief has been the emphasis he has put on wildland firefighting within TCFR. He picked up a particular interest in wildland operations while serving in Chubbuck. “I’ve been doing wildland firefighting forever and then coming here and thinking of all the forested acres around us, we started a pretty good, robust wildland fire program,” said Campbell. Campbell stated that TCFR has brought in over $1.5 million to the district for its efforts, in addition to $2 million exclusively to the payroll since 2013.  “We send trucks out all over the western United States supporting the federal firefighters. It’s been good, and good to the district,” said Campbell. “It had a pretty significant economic impact. We’ve used that money to buy new equipment, water tenders, brush trucks, and command vehicles. It’s helped a lot with our capital improvements as well as our fire prevention efforts.”Another achievement that can’t be overlooked is the high rating TCFR achieved in an insurance evaluation called the Public Protection Classification. The PPC is administered every six to 10 years by the Idaho Surveying and Rating Bureau, a nonprofit association of insurers.The rating affects insurance rates for Teton County property owners. In a previous article published in the TVN, Campbell called the rating increase “maybe the biggest accomplishment in the district’s history.”Although these achievements certainly helped cement his career as highly influential to TCFR, the longevity Campbell experienced in his vocation has come from many other factors.Chief among them is a mentality that there is always something to be better at, which speaks to Campbell’s drive and passion.“It always seems like you’re trying to keep up and take it all in, you’re never quite there and you’re always reaching to the next rung on the ladder of knowledge and skill in order to do the job well,” said Campbell. “I think that’s just kind of how careers are too, one thing leads to another and you get new opportunities and a little breath of new life to get you to the next waypoint I suppose.”Of course, Campbell had many to thank who helped him on his journey.“There’s been so many people that have helped me and contributed,” said Campbell. “The first set of commissioners, Ruby Parsons, Bob Dalton, Larry Booth, all three have passed away but they gave me an opportunity to work with Chief Hoyle, who has also passed.”Chief Hoyle was uniquely positioned to give guidance to Campbell after he came back to Teton County.“Chief Hoyle was definitely a mentor to me,” he said.Campbell’s last official day is set for March 26, 2022.In retirement, Campbell is looking forward to more time with his family, even though his children can sometimes be a challenge to keep pace with.“The kids definitely keep ya young and it’s hard to keep up with them,” said Campbell with a laugh.Campbell and his two sons climbed the Middle Teton this past summer, and he had his work cut out for him on the ascent.“It ended up being a little harder than I realized due to the oxygen,” said Campbell. “People were like ‘are you sure you’re going to make it?’ and I said hell yeah I’m going to make it.”“It got pretty bad,” he added with another laugh.Campbell stated that the greatest influence on him was his wife, who played a critical role in his interest in being a firefighter.In a story that elicited some more laughs, Campbell started his firefighting career as a response to his wife’s suggestion that it could earn him some brownie points with his father-in-law to be.“While dating my wife she suggested I might ‘score points’ with her father, a Battalion Chief with a local fire department, if I became a volunteer firefighter. I began my career in the summer of 1992 and fell in love with my wife and the American fire service with its 200 years of tradition, and I have never looked back,” reads the bio.“Mostly I suppose I owe everything to my wife, that is the truth,” said Campbell. “She has been my greatest supporter, she’s been with me through everything, thick and thin, the good and the bad.”Campbell has recognized that it is not easy being a firefighter’s wife, with the dangers of the occupation presenting some obvious worries.“That’s the one thing with the fire service is you see a lot of awful things and you’re there to help people when they’re having their worst days, and that, some of that is pretty rough,” said Campbell. “She’s always been there to support me. That’s one thing in retirement is spending some quality time with her and my family, I feel like I owe it to her.”

By Connor Shea, Teton Valley News, Decemer 8, 2021