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Firehouse Feature - Outlook chief looking to future with new hall

Fire chief credits his Outlook-Rudy crew for making things run smooth as silk.

OUTLOOK - As the chief of the Outlook-Rudy Fire & Rescue team, Dalas King sees a lot in the community and beyond from his vantage point.

He sees the outright destruction that fiery flames can cause in an instant to a home and property, and he sees the carnage that can come from a terrible traffic collision. King sees this, but then, as the head honcho in charge, he has split decisions to make and a responsibility to oversee the entire operation once the crew is on the scene.

Having served on the department since May of 2001, Dalas says his dad George, a firehouse veteran of 35 years, was a source of inspiration when he began thinking of joining the crew. The act of running into the chaos while everyone else is running from it looked appealing, as well as helping someone when they're experiencing their darkest hour.

"That's always in the back of your head, right? You always want to follow in your father's footsteps," said Dalas, talking with this reporter in the current fire hall. "I always thought it was a cool thing to do; to be thrown into the mix of harm and while everyone is running away from everything, we're running right into it. I was always very interested in that, and helping people, too. That's one of the biggest rewards of the firefighting business, being able to help people when they're at their worst."

The rewarding thing for King is at the end of the day when he and his crew members manage to come home safe and sound.

"It totally is," he said. "It's stressful at times, but at the end of the call and the end of the day, when you go back home and you're able to debrief and just kind of relax and think about things, and if somebody's in a better place because of what you guys were able to do, that's just awesome."

As the fire chief, a position Dalas has been in for approximately 15 years, he says the pressure that such a role can bring is similar to that of his day job at Lumber Plus. People look to him because he's in a position of leadership, but King insists that it's the fire crew that helps make everything run smooth and can't say enough good things about them.

"Being a fire chief is no different than my regular job in some sorts," he said. "You're the boss, right? You're looking after a great team of 18-20 firefighters who all have their own jobs, so it's a lot of coordination and a lot of making sure guys are going in the right direction and doing what they're supposed to be doing so that everything works out in the end. The reward aspect of it is great because we have a great crew. I can't say enough about my crew; they make my job so much easier. It's just a great bunch of guys, and we're all really tight. We're not just together on calls, as we're constantly in contact through group chats and meetings at fire practices. We're just always together, helping each other out, and it's really just a big family."

Being in a fire department that oversees a small town like Outlook, as well as the smaller communities that dot the local landscape, the odds of being called to a scene in which someone Dalas may know just lost their home, or someone that the crew may know has been in a bad car wreck are increased. Knowing that, King says it can bring another layer of difficulty to the job, but it's all about that post-job sit-down in the back of the hall and talking things out where guys may get the help they need if something particularly grisly is witnessed.

"It's difficult," said Dalas. "You never want to see someone struggling who you know, and it's always a rough thing to see. But then again, we're always trying to help each other and help those people out. It's a small community thing; we're not only part of the fire department, we're part of the community too, so we want to help out in any way that we can. We go to the accidents and we might see something that we don't want to see, but again, you're trying to help somebody out. Afterward, it's a lot of talking in amongst the guys, sitting in the back of the hall here, and just talking about what everybody's seen, what feelings they might have, what we can do to help assist each other, and there's a lot of that that goes on behind the scenes."

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A door in the hall with all the firefighters' names will also be making the move to the new location. Derek Ruttle

When he looks around at the current fire hall, King says he's glad that they were able to do some renovations that allowed for a little bit more room. That said, the fact that equipment is also housed in different locations around town can work against the crew when they've been called to a scene.

"We actually underwent a renovation in the hall here about five years ago," he explained. "We knocked out a wall so that we could actually have some more room here, and so the guys could come into the hall and not begin throwing elbows when they're trying to get dressed. It also improved our response time. This hall is able to fit three apparatuses, and the others are in three other buildings, so if we have to go somewhere, we're trying to be out of here between eight to ten minutes. So, when all these trucks are in different spots, now we're sending guys to two different locations to pick them up, and so now we're losing guys, right? That can be a hinderance. If we roll out for a structure fire, these main trucks are going to go out right away, and the ladder truck is going to be five to six minutes behind us, so it does affect our time. Whereas, looking at a new fire hall, everything will be all together and it's just a matter of point and shoot to make sure everything's arriving at the same time."

A new rescue van acquired by the department has already helped make the job easier after Outlook-Rudy Fire & Rescue partnered with OTEX Manufacturing out of Swanson to develop it. King says he's pumped to use it and it takes away some of the stress involved when it's time to respond to a call. That excitement he has also carries over into the prospective plans for Outlook's new fire hall, where Dalas says it'll be great to have everything under one roof.

"I'm very excited," he said. "Just to have everything under one roof will be absolutely amazing. We are just so cramped that it's hard to do almost anything. For training purposes, we're always looking outside the hot fire hall to go somewhere else for it. Working with the town and the RM has been great, they're always really good to us, and we can pretty much access any building that we need that's owned by those people. It's good that way, but if we could stay in-house so that we didn't have to move our equipment, that'd be great, as well."

One of the unique things about the new hall project is that the design of it comes from the firefighters themselves, allowing for a crystal-clear objective and the features that the crew needs. King says it'll very much be an Outlook project carried out by Outlook and area crews, as the talent and the know-how is right here at home in the riverside community to see the new hall come to fruition.

"The new fire hall that we're currently building is designed by the firefighters, which is great because it's what we want," he said. "It's not what previous designers wanted to put into it. It's not a whole lot of extra as far as what we want, but we just want something basic that we can house everything into. Outlook is a great community, and it has everything that we need to build this fire hall. When it comes to contractors and the people that we need to build it, we are all local. This whole building and this whole project is going to be locally done, which is something that's so great for this community. We don't need a big company because we're a small town with a lot of great people and great contractors, and we can get this done quickly."

For King, the best thing about being an Outlook firefighter is being able to represent the people and the places here at home, and help them when they find themselves in a vulnerable state.

"The community," he said. "It's helping the people that you see every day. We're part of a great group and we serve a great community. Everybody that we talk to and we serve is grateful for us, and that just really means a lot."