On his last day of work, Pat Dale was met with bagpipes and dozens of saluting firefighters. He arrived at the Olympia Fire Department on a ladder truck, which drove down Fourth Avenue with lights flashing.
The assistant fire chief, who served with the Olympia Police Department for 16 years, said he never expected such a sendoff.
“It completely shocked me, it completely blew me away,” Dale said.
By leaving the Olympia Fire Department, Dale is ending a 33-year career in the profession. He began as a volunteer for the Tumwater Fire Department in 1980, worked up the ranks of the Kent Fire Department and returned to Thurston County in 1998 when he joined the Olympia crew.
Olympia fire Cpt. Jim Brown, a medical services officer, said Dale is known throughout the region as an innovator who made great improvements to firefighter training. He worked with other local agencies to create the Mark Noble Regional Fire Training Center, and specialized in command training.
“Now we’re a lot more organized at the scene,” Brown said. “The incident commander knows where everyone is and what they’re doing.”
Upon his retirement from the Olympia Fire Department, Dale will work for a Phoenix-based firefighter training company. He’ll remain in Olympia, but travel to other cities to train departments.
In his new role, Dale will still be following one of his passions: teaching. But he said he’ll miss actually going out on calls.
“I’ve always enjoyed responding to structure fires and medical calls,” Dale said. “We have so many unique incidents.”
And it’s for that reason Dale will be missed, Brown said.
“Pat is a man of action,” Brown said. “He’s always out there with us. And he’s constantly encouraging other firefighters to do the right thing.”