After years of service in Albany County Search and as Rescue and the assistant chief of the Vedauwoo and Centennial volunteer fire departments, he was ready to take his next step in protecting Albany County from fires.
Connections made while fighting blazes in the county and elsewhere helped Chad Dinges create lines of communication with several government officials, which will help him in his role as the new Albany County fire warden.
“This position requires quite a bit of experience and different contacts with people from the state and federal government, and the various local governments,” Dinges said. “There is a limited number of people that have the specific contacts and knowledge of all those little pieces that would be effective in this position.”
Dinges said, he started down this path when he joined a search-and-rescue team 34 years ago in Colorado. When he later moved to Albany County, he joined the local search and rescue for several years before becoming a volunteer fire fighter, he said.
“I came to Wyoming in ’89 to go to the University of Wyoming, which is when I joined the Albany County Search and Rescue,” Dinges said. “I started in fire right around 2002 and I was involved with the Vedauwoo Fire Department and I am now involved with the Centennial Fire Department.”
Dinges said he mostly fought federal project fires, fires where the federal government requests support from other firefighting jurisdictions, pointing in the different directions of the fires, as well as Albany County from blazes on multiple occasions.
He first started out on an engine but as time went on he started doing more logistical work and paperwork, he said.
“(Federal project fires) has been my mainstay and been my bread and butter over the last couple of years,” Dinges said. “I fought fires from Mexico to Canada. The Goodwin Fire was about 20 miles north of the Mexican border and the Libby Fire was about 40 miles south of the Canadian border — I saw a lot of country this year.”
Responding to fires in different parts of the nation helps local firefighting organizations because the federal government assists with the costs of fighting the fire, he said.
Dinges said responding agencies are reimbursed by the federal government for loaning their equipment and man power and the funds they receive from those are important for purchasing new and expensive equipment.
“When we have a problem — like we did with the Keystone Fire (in 2017) — the world comes to help us,” he said. “The money that comes back to the county, from the equipment that we loaned out to the federal government, is the mainstay of what we utilize to support these departments.”
When Dinges was asked about changes he would make to the office, he said the only changes he would make would be to adjust to the ever-changing nature of the firefighting profession.
“I’m following Scott Davis, who was an amazing fire warden, and quite frankly he has organized this office in such a way that making changes is not smart,” Dinges said.
“The service itself is a very dynamic thing that will always be implemented to address various issues (such as constructing the Sybille fire station).”
Along with utilizing the system his predecessor put in place, he is also using lessons learned from previous Albany County fires such as the Arapaho and Squirrel Creek fires to better the county’s response and prepare for when fires happen, he said.
“2012 was a monster fire year in Albany County, we had two (large) incidents going on at the same time — I don’t think that has ever happened before and I hope it never happens again,” Dinges said. “During that year, all of the county’s resources were brought to bear, and really a lot of the important lessons about finances and stuff came to bear.”
Even though it is an important job, it is not easy for people in fire response positions to have jobs with steady hours because they could be called away at a moment’s notice, he said.
“It is really hard to do this job and have a real life or a real job because I could get a call at 10 p.m. on a Tuesday and be up in the woods for a week,” Dinges said. “The typical job doesn’t really lend itself to that, with me being a being a self proclaimed smoke chaser. If I’m not on an incident I don’t have another occupation, I’m either on a fire or I’m waiting for a fire.”