Hassler hangs up the hose
Though he won't be stepping away from the Boone Fire Department, Chief Reggie Hassler is retiring on Friday, April 30.
"I have been in it for a total of 35 years, 22 years as a career," Hassler said. "It is time to let someone else take over the reins."
He plans to remain with the fire department as a volunteer after his final day as chief next Friday.
Hassler was named fire chief in April 1988 after serving 13 years as a volunteer. Originally from Raleigh, Hassler attended Lees-McRae College on a scholarship, beginning in 1969 as an athletic trainer. He later transferred to Appalachian State University, where he graduated with a B.S. in health education in 1975.
Already a ski patrol member for five years, Hassler sought to utilize his rescue skills as a volunteer and put in applications at both the Boone Fire Department and Watauga Rescue. The fire department accepted.
Throughout Hassler's career as chief, he has represented the department at the local, regional and state levels. He has served as chairman of the Watauga County Fire Commission multiple times, president of the Western N.C. Fireman's Association in 1997, president of the N.C.
Association of Fire Chiefs in 2000 and president of the N.C. Fireman's Association in 2007.
The Boone department has grown in scope during Hassler's tenure as chief from just firefighting efforts to include hazardous material response, medical rescue and confined space emergency response. The confined space response would be instances such of a trench collapse or vault emergency.
The department also now maintains a pre-fire plan, which has a database of rough sketches of every business, contact information for property owners and identifies potential hazards. The database includes the location of gas lines and electrical connections.
"We have put a priority on this not only to save property, but also lessen the risk of injury to rescue personnel," Hassler said. "Our slogan is 'Everybody goes home,' and being educated about the buildings in the district is a part of that."
Hassler will be entering his 40th year as a ski patrol member for Sugar Mountain Resort, with no plans to stop in retirement. He will also continue as an official for high school athletics, and, he said, maybe play a little golf.
"It has been very rewarding, and I can't thank the staff enough," Hassler said. "I am sure the department will carry on the high standard it has set for itself."