Chief hopes his efforts made a difference in people’s lives
HAYDEN — Dal Leck has spent the past 28 years making a difference in his community, and if the retiring chief of the West Routt Fire Protection District has his way, nobody will notice when he leaves his position this week.
“If the public doesn’t see the transition, then I’m happy,” Leck said Monday on the eve of his retirement. “If they don’t notice that someone’s gone, then I feel like I’ve done a good job.”
He joined the district in 1992 as a volunteer firefighter. A few years later, he was certified to be an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and then a few years after that, he went on to get his intermediate certificate. He was hired as a captain at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport where he spent nine years before returning to the West Routt Fire Protection District to take a position as assistant chief. He held that position for six years.
“He was about 35 when he joined the department, and once he joined, he discovered what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. He loved it,” Dal’s wife Cindy Leck said. “He was in construction and things and he liked it, but it wasn’t his true love.”
When former chief Bryan Rickman left the district in 2014, Leck was named interim chief and was then selected from a field of 30 other candidates as chief in April of that same year.
“All you can hope for is to make a difference in someone’s life. If you can make a positive difference in someone’s life then that is a good thing,” Dal said. “Through the years, I had seen all the good the fire protection district was doing, and I just wanted to contribute something back to the community.”
As a first responder, Dal has seen it all in nearly three decades on the job, including fires, automobile crashes and rescues. It wasn’t always easy for Cindy and the couple’s, now-grown, children. There were many times his role as a first responder resulted in missed holidays, birthdays and other special events.
“You know part of it was exciting and proud and part of it was a lot of time alone,” Cindy said. “There were a lot of missed family things, and there were times when it was a mixed bag.”
But there were other times, like when Dal was called out on his birthday for a woman who was delivering a baby outside of the local Kum & Go, that fill her with pride.
“They just paged out that the lady was stopped at the Kum & Go, and she was delivering a baby,” Dal recalled. “We made it all the way to the hospital in Steamboat Springs. … We were going to deliver out in the parking lot, and a nurse came out said you’re not doing that here. So we put the woman on a stretcher, and we just got through the doors when the baby delivered. ”
It was a special moment for Dal, who actually was part of four deliveries during his career, and it was also special for Cindy.
“It made my day, in fact, it made my whole year,” Dal said. “Those are the moments I’m going to remember.”
Of course, there have been more automobile crashes, airplane crashes and fires than he wants to recall. But for him, it was all a part of the job and all a part of serving his community.
“It’s a way of life,” Dal said of working for the district and helping his community. “I will probably miss it all.”
He said this will be the end of his days with the district, but interim fire chief Trevor Guire said Dal’s legacy will live on in the district, and he will carry the many lessons he has learned from the chief.
“Lessons that I’ve learned from chief include compassion,” Guire said. “If you want to change the world, you have to be able to articulate why you believe what you believe, and people have to believe you care about them. That’s the lesson I learned from ‘Chief.’”
Dal said he plans to escape to his cabin with Cindy, his wife of more than 40 years, this week. When he gets back he also wants to spend a little more time focusing on his passion for creating ornamental iron and Damascus cutlery that he sells through his business the Moonlight Smithy.
But even as Dal moves on to the next chapter of his life, there is no question that he will remain committed to the community he has been a part of since 1974.
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