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Family tradition: Dillsboro fire chief retires after 44 years

Outgoing chief's message to others: Give Back to Your Community

(DILLSBORO, Ind.) -- Being a volunteer firefighter has always ran in his blood.

Tim Heitmeyer remembers both his grandfather and dad leaving the house on the drop of a dime to help someone else.

His grandad, James Heitmeyer, and his father, Robert, were both longtime fire chiefs for the Dillsboro Volunteer Fire Department.

In 1980, Tim made the decision to put on his turnout gear for the first time and it's a mission of his that has never ended.

For the past four decades, Tim Heitmeyer has answered the call when people in Dillsboro need help the most.

He has responded to car crashes, gas leaks, house fires and countless other emergencies.

Tim has been on the department long enough to remember what life was like before there was 9-1-1.

"There was a phone number you'd call that would ring into the homes of eight Dillsboro firefighters, and a couple businesses," Heitmeyer recalls.

Each firefighter who answered the phone had a list of three or four other fireman to call.

"When the husband ran out the house and drove to the emergency, it was the wife's responsibility to call that list of firefighters," Heitmeyer said.

There was also a siren on the Dillsboro Water Tower that activated whenever there was an emergency.

"If you were uptown on a Saturday afternoon, and heard the siren was flashing, you knew it was time to get to the firehouse," he laughed.

Technology has replaced that siren and the phone system, but the reasons why Heitmeyer joined the fire service has never changed.

"It's the satisfaction of helping others that has stayed the same for me," he told The 812.

Heitmeyer is retiring as fire chief after serving in the role since 2014.

He's retiring due to the department's by-laws that state anyone 65 years or older can't hold an officer position.

Tim turns 65 this month and vows that he will continue responding to calls as a volunteer.

He's also hoping to spread the message that volunteerism is needed more than ever in our small towns.

Especially the volunteer fire service as Dillsboro now only has 20 members, compared to 35 members back in the 1980's.

But Heitmeyer says the need for more volunteerism goes beyond the fire service.

"Dillsboro offers so many volunteer opportunities if you're not a firefighter prospect, Dillsboro Main Street, Dillsboro Civic Club, and many many more," he said. "If your looking for a reason to volunteer, for anything, no matter what it is, or for how long, think of the impacts you'll have on yourself and the people you serve for and with," Heitmeyer added.

Heitmeyer is also thanking his fellow firefighters for their service to the community, and says he couldn't have served the people of Dillsboro if it wasn't for his family who accepted him being on call 24/7 and 365 days a year.

Tim is a third generation firefighter and his son, Kris, who is the assistant fire chief at Bright Fire Department, and his nephew, Davin, who is a firefighter in Houston, Texas, is keeping the family tradition alive for the next generation.


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