Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue Chief Deric Weiss stresses one major point: it was never his intention to become a firefighter, let alone rise through the ranks of the fire service to become the chief of the second largest fire district in the state.
But that all that changed Monday afternoon at Rolling Hills Community Church, when Weiss was sworn in as only the fourth chief ever to head up the sprawling Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue since its formation in 1989. He takes over from Chief Mike Duyck, who served as chief for almost a decade.
Weiss was sworn in by TVF&R Board President Clark Balfour shortly before the symbolic official "transfer of command," which included the presentation of a "brass speaking trumpet," a remnant of gone-by days when firefighting commands were given through a similar device, presented to Weiss by Duyck.
"I think about the leaders that came before me," Weiss said. "I think about the great history of the organization and I am truly honored and humbled to be standing here today."
He said that becoming chief took a fair amount of work, some luck and a "ton of support from family, friends and coworkers."
Among those were numerous mentors and teachers, among them Duyck and former Chief Jeff Johnson.
"You always had my back," Weiss said of Duyck. "I can always trust you. You took care of me when I stumbled. You've always been there for my family and me."
Weiss served as a volunteer firefighter and intern before being hired by TVF&R in 1994. Over the years, he has worked on the district's Hazardous Materials Team and made his way through the ranks as an apparatus operator, lieutenant, captain, battalion chief, division chief, and most recently, assistant chief.
Balfour said Weiss, who lives in the Villebois housing development in Wilsonville, was selected as chief following an extensive search where the board found the right mix of strength, will and ethics they were looking for.
Weiss highlighted the importance of maintaining relationships in a district consisting of 11 cities and four counties.
"Our friendships, our collaborations are truth that when we work together, we can get just about anything done," said Weiss.
Before Monday's ceremony began, Weiss reflected on what led him into his entry into the fire service, an endeavor that had its origins in a tragic event that occurred when he was younger involving one of Weiss' roommates, named Kris. Weiss was working odd jobs at the time and thinking of returning to college, he said.
One day, Kris came home from a trip along the Wilson River with friends. He had fallen out of a tree and Kris ' friends had asked Weiss to make sure he was OK.
"And I actually didn't have any EMT skills or I didn't have any medical skills for that matter, wasn't in the fire service at all," Weiss said. He lacked the ability to see his friend was in trouble.
The next morning, he found his friend in the bathroom, looking pasty. He'd been throwing up most of the night.
"I said 'Hey, you need to go and make sure you get checked out by a doctor.' Then I left for work,'" Weiss recalled.
When he got home that day, his other roommate called to inform him that Kris had died.
"And so at that moment, I made kind of made a decision on two things. One, I'm going to try to live my life a little more like Kris did. The second thing is, I'm going to get some training because what I (learned) from the doctor … all the signs and symptoms were obvious."
Those signs were internal injury and shock.
That's when Weiss got into public service, took his first EMT class and was hooked, he said.
The takeaway regarding Kris is something he hasn't forgotten, noting that his former roommate was nice to everybody, an attribute Weiss remembers in his daily encounters with people.
"He just treated everyone with respect," he said.
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